Online age verification

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Online age verification

Online age verification

We live in a time in which new technologies have advanced in such a way that access to them and to the communication networks that have arisen around them have made the dissemination of our image something habitual and standardized.

The fact that this type of situation has become commonplace does not mean that the disclosure of our images should be subject to some type of regulation. With greater justification when the interest of vulnerable subjects is at stake, as is the case of minors.

Thus, the access of minors to inappropriate content is a frequent concern, due to the use of smart devices from a very early age. For example, the age of first access to adult content in Spain is 8 years, while from 14 the consumption of this type of content is widespread.

Impact of inappropriate content on minors

The National Institute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE) highlighted in its initiative called “Safe Internet For Kids” (is4k.es) the multiple consequences as well as the potential damages that this group may suffer from accessing inappropriate content on the web:

  • Psychological and emotional damage.
  • Disinformation, manipulation and construction of false beliefs.
  • Establishment of dangerous or socially inappropriate behaviors
  • Damage to physical health.
  • Inclusion in harmful groups and collectives.
  • Addictions.
  • Economic expenses.

Likewise, it is worth noting the article published by Dr. Liliana Pasquale from University College Dublin on the “EurekAlert” website, where she emphasizes the consequences derived from the use of an inappropriate application in minors: “It exposes them to threats to their privacy and their safety, such as cyberbullying, online solicitation for sexual purposes, or exposure to content that may be inappropriate for their age.

When is online age verification mandatory?

An EU-supported study reveals how easy it is for children to circumvent the mechanisms used by the best-known applications to verify their age, turning out to be ineffective measures in any case.

In this sense, research supported by the CyberSec4Europe and ASAP projects, both financed with European funds, children of different ages can completely circumvent these mechanisms simply by lying.

The study analyzed the age verification procedures of Discord, Facebook, Houseparty, Instagram, Messenger, Skype, Snapchat, TikTok, Viber, and WhatsApp, and found that all of the apps allow users to create accounts claiming they are older than sixteen years.

Formulas that websites and social networks are using to verify the age of users

Meta has been planning for some time how to prevent minors from accessing experiences intended for adults, in order to ensure that users carry out activities appropriate for their age. To this end, it has been working on new verification systems.

“Age verification tools will help verify that only adults use the service and will help prevent minors from accessing it,” Mark Zuckerberg’s company emphasizes ina press release.

Thus, the main formulas highlighted by Meta are the following:

  • Selfie video: Navigators must record themselves following a series of instructions that will be displayed on their screen. Meta will then send a still image from the video to Yoti’s tool, and Yoti will analyze facial features to estimate an age. The image is immediately erased and the technology it cannot recognize the identity of the user, so it is completely secure.
  • Identification charge: It will be done by uploading a copy of an identity document. Goal details that the information is encrypted and stored securely for a while and will ensure that no third party accesses such data.

The brand stressed that since they began testing their verification system in instagram in June 2022 they were able to prevent 96% of teenagers who tried to edit their birthday on the social network Instagram from doing so.

However, it is important to take into account the importance of guaranteeing the security of the vulnerable subjects we have been talking about, so web pages must take into account the following aspects:

  • Clarify the minimum age and data processing: existing applications shall ensure that a clear, concise and age-appropriate summary of the relevant parts of the application’s Terms and Conditions is displayed to users who register and declare that their age is under 18 years of age.
  • Enable the most restrictive privacy settings: Applications must apply the most restrictive privacy settings by default for any user who declares themselves to be under 18 years of age, and their posts and messages must only be shared with their friends list, and must not give access to the location in any case. Likewise, it should not be possible to override privacy settings without explicit parental consent.
  • Encourage users not to lie about their age: Users should be encouraged to be honest about their age, with minimal data collected.
  • Put in place robust age verification mechanisms – Where there is a minimum age requirement, it should be supported by appropriate age verification mechanisms. The use of age recognition techniques based on biometric factors, such as facial features, may not be enough considering that they can be circumvented.

At Letslaw by RSM we are experts in Cybersecurity, and we can advise you both in your impact evaluation and help you in all phases of its development.

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