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If a 10 year old goes to a bar and takes a seat next to you, it just won’t start a bad joke. It would be an unsuitable, unhealthy and potentially dangerous place for a baby.
In a real-world context, it is clear that when a child is in a place where he should not be. However, it is difficult to know exactly where the kids in the digital world are. And over the past two years, the epidemic has dramatically accelerated the online transformation of children’s academic and social lives.
Unfortunately, there is a real lack of rigorous age-verification and identity-proofing systems online. Lack of protection has potentially serious implications for the digital security of children, including easy access to the prey of human traffickers and other sex victims.
With so much of our lives, business and entertainment being driven in the digital world, this is a problem that no one wants to be on the wrong side of. If we allow young people to enter the high-stakes digital arena, we need to increase our game in terms of age verification.
Related: Instagram wants to know how old you are
The scope of the problem
Although the landscape is slowly changing, much of the Internet makes age verification much easier. If you’ve ever checked a box online to verify that you’re over 18, you know how easy it is to identify yourself at any age you want. This checkbox is an open door for teens and adolescents to view adult content, purchase age-restricted substances, and even post inappropriate or illegal content. A few years ago, preventing minors from purchasing age-restricted products was done face-to-face and with much less error than in the digital world. Many 16- and 17-year-olds can pass 18, but your average 10-year-old can’t.
The explosive growth of social media by minors has created a perfect storm for age-verification problems. For most social media applications kids need to be 13 years old before they can access the platform without any adult supervision, but this is not much of a failure to guarantee reality. Forty-five percent of children aged 9-12 say they use Facebook every day, according to a recent study Thorns. In addition, other recent studies have highlighted the techniques used to identify, communicate, and traffick vulnerable young people with the ultimate goal of exploitation. These strategies are facilitated by the increasing adoption of technology, especially social media
Related: The government has created new guidelines for social media and OTT platforms
The future of solutions
Progress regulations are an important step that could encourage companies to take this issue seriously. Many countries, especially in Europe, have already taken steps to protect children online France has passed age-verification rules to ensure that minors do not have access to websites with age-restricted content and has also passed regulations to protect online images of young people. In the UK, violations of the newly implemented age-appropriate design code can result in a fine of up to 4% of a company’s annual global turnover.
However, the problem is too broad for the government to deal with alone. Businesses that operate online have an ethical obligation to protect their children and they can do this relatively easily with less friction and higher confidence using a variety of new technologies.
In a digital world, technology will be a key strategy for testing the age of Internet users. Oral biometrics can be especially helpful in these endeavors, as the need for oral authentication can both prevent children from accessing inappropriate sites through age verification and help prevent criminal activity on the site through identity verification.
Related: Businesses can get new growth by moving towards new buyer behavior
The answer to Tech’s question
Possible technology solutions are staring us in the face. The process of taking a selfie or photo of users with their government-issued ID is one way to solve the authentication problem. ID documents can be verified for authenticity and can help determine a person’s age. If a government-provided ID is required when creating an account, it allows companies to create a baseline for future user authentication as well as verify date of birth when combined with a selfie.
Selfies can be matched with existing photos or ID documents to verify that the person holding the ID is the right person. In addition, using only a simple selfie, facial recognition technology can estimate a person’s age with a high degree of confidence. As an added measure of certainty, current technology can also detect whether a selfie has come from a living person by identifying the living. Individually or collectively, IDs and selfies may be required to identify fake and underage users and detailed underwriting may be allowed to ensure compliance with the new regulations.
Other technologies may further assure that users are not underage. Companies may use ongoing MFA (multi-factor authentication) to prevent age-restricted purchases or restricted content uploads or access. For example, biometrics such as face authentication can be used both at login and at the point of sale. This new slate of technology will help provide better protection for children online
Related: 60% of parents do not monitor the content their children see online
The bets for this problem are high. Many organizations, including the All for Humanity Alliance, are working hard to raise awareness and create solutions for both business and the average person who have seen something that they find uncomfortable. The temptation to be tempted and insecure online tends to accelerate, but more often than not, these problems are out of the sight of adults who can help.
This is where the real value of technology lies. Age verification is the first frame of the storyboard that helps protect our kids from potentially dangerous people, content and products. With technology, we will facilitate the process of providing children with a secure Internet experience by providing adaptability and flexibility to deal with emerging threats, strategies, regulations and challenges in the digital future.