The spike in VPN searches and account openings appears to be directly related to Pornhub's decision to completely disable its websites for people living in the state.
Utah's Governor Spencer Cox [yes, really] (pictured) signed the law requiring ID checks claiming that it would protect children from opening accounts. The law requires such sites to check the IDs of users. It is unclear how this would be enforced, but the fear was that police could just ask such sites to turn over user details.
Pornhub did something unexpected and blocked the whole of Utah from visiting its site. This might have seemed to be doing what Cox and his puritan chums wanted, but was rather clever. By blocking Utah it exempted itself from the law and if users signed up for a VPN there was nothing the Utah government could do about it.
A spokesperson of secure VPN provider Private Internet Access (PIA) said that Utah's age-verification law was proof of a worrying trend to further restrict digital freedoms and disregard data privacy across the US.
"Private Internet Access is a long-time advocate of greater digital privacy, and we urge lawmakers to consider other ways of protecting children online, including education, guidance from parents, and open conversations about safe internet usage, rather than relying on increasingly intrusive digital regulations which disregard people's privacy and online freedom."