Instagram age verification can analyze face videos

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Age verification on Instagram — or rather the lack thereof — has been a hot topic for some time with parents and lawmakers. App owner Meta has so far made no effort to ensure the age of claimed users is correct, but says it is currently testing three verification options.

However, even if one or more of them are implemented, it still won’t be a major obstacle for minor children who claim to be older…

Background

Instagram says use is limited to teens and adults. The minimum age at which you can open an account is 13 years old.

However, Instagram does not currently perform any verification of claimed ages. All someone has to do to open an account is give a date of birth, without Meta trying to verify that. Indeed, some longtime Instagram users didn’t even need to provide a date of birth until the company belatedly added that requirement.

A study conducted last year found that more than 40% of children under 13 use Instagram and other social networks that claim to exclude them. Parents and lawmakers have called on the company to address this issue.

The issue became more pressing when research of 2,000 American children using Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Snapchat revealed that a third of minors had experienced an “online sexual interaction”, which included asking for or receiving nude pics. The worst platforms for sexually abusive posts were Instagram and Snapchat, with 16% of minors on both platforms reporting sexual interactions.

Instagram age verification tests

instagram said today that it is currently testing three age verification options.

[There are] three options: upload their ID, record a video selfie, or ask mutual friends to verify their age. We’re testing this to make sure teens and adults have the right experience for their age group. We also partner with Yoti, a company that specializes in online age verification, to help ensure people’s privacy.

The company explained how these latter options work.

Video Selfie: You can choose to upload a video selfie to verify your age. If you choose this option, you will see instructions on your screen to guide you. After taking a video selfie, we share the image with Yoti, and nothing else. Yoti’s technology estimates your age based on your facial features and shares this estimate with us. Meta and Yoti then delete the image. Technology cannot recognize your identity – only your age.

Social guarantee: this option allows you to ask your common subscribers to confirm your age. The person vouching must be at least 18 years of age, must not be vouching for anyone else at the time, and will be subject to other safeguards we have in place. The three people you select to vouch for will receive a request to confirm your age and must respond within three days.

The 9to5Mac take

As it was said in the sitcom Yes Ministerthe title gives and the fine print takes away.

First, the checks will only be done when a user attempts to change their date of birth from under 18 to over 18 (removing some restrictions that apply to teenage accounts).

Starting today, we’re testing new options for Instagram users to verify their age, starting with people based in the United States. If someone tries to change their birthday on Instagram from under 18 to 18 or over, we’ll ask them to verify their age.

There will be no attempt to verify existing users of the app, or those signing up for an account. It’s the very definition of doing as little as possible to try to appear responsible.

Second, while Yoti claims 98.91% accuracy in identifying children ages 6-11 as under 13, it should be noted that no data is provided for 12-year-olds. In addition, for 13 to 17 year olds, the only data cited allow them to be correctly identified as under 23, which is a completely irrelevant ability in this context.

It’s Meta that pretends to care, while doing nothing that would reduce its user count.

Image: N. Hanacek/NIST

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