Instagram Rolls Out Age Verification For Users  

14 Nov 2022 UK SIC

As part of a major safety update, Instagram has introduced new age verification for users which uses AI technology trained to estimate a person’s age through facial analysis. 

Describing it as a move ‘to ensure an age-appropriate experience on the platform’, particularly among young users, Instagram said the age verification tool has been developed with AI technology in partnership with tech company, Yoti.  

Starting now, users who try to edit their date of birth on the social media platform from under 18 to over 18, will be asked to either upload an ID document or to take a video selfie which will be analysed by age estimation technology. Instagram has an age restriction of over 13. 

Both Instagram and Yoti highlighted that the technology cannot identify or recognise any user, but that the new technology estimates the age of the face taken in the selfie.  

If choosing to submit an ID, the app states this will take up to two days, while submitting a selfie will take around 20 minutes.  

Privacy By Design 

According to the Yoti Age Estimation White Paper released in May 2022:  

“Yoti’s facial age estimation is built in accordance with the ‘privacy by design’ principle in the UK GDPR. No individual can be identified by the model and it encourages data minimisation because it only needs a facial image. Yoti immediately deletes all images of users. The model cannot infer anything else about a person nor can it uniquely identify a person. 

“Yoti’s facial age estimation is performed by a ‘neural network’, which we have trained to be able to estimate human age by analysing a person’s face.” 

Yoti’s chief policy and regulatory officer, Julie Dawson said that proving age online was “a complex industry-wide challenge” and that the technology was a secure way to verify age without impacting on a user’s privacy.  

“Our facial age estimation is a privacy-preserving solution. We built it to give everyone a secure way to prove their age without sharing their name or an ID document. 

“The technology can allow minors to access content which is appropriate for their age, whilst protecting the privacy of users,” she said.  

Effective Technology 

Instagram’s public policy director, Tara Hopkins, said : “We want everyone to experience Instagram in a way that’s appropriate for their age, which means we need to know how old they are – and this is a challenge across our industry. 

“That’s why this announcement is such an important step and why we’re particularly excited to be working with Yoti, who are leading the way in building effective technology to verify age, while putting privacy first. 

“This work complements our ongoing efforts to improve our age detection technology and to develop new ways to give teens the safest and most meaningful experience possible on Instagram,” she said. 

Addressing Age Verification

Report Harmful Content (RHC) Manager, Kathryn Tremlett said: We welcome any steps industry take to protect the safety of those using their services and think this is positive step towards protecting younger people from harmful content online. However, age estimation is just that, an estimation of someone’s age and not a verification of it meaning that there is still room for error . . . There’s clearly more work to be done here, but it’s encouraging to see a large industry platform take steps to start addressing issues with age-inappropriate content on their platform

Find out more about Instagram’s age verification measures here.  

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