The banning of mobile devices for children under 16 has generated notable buzz lately, triggering debates about technology addiction and its impact on the neurodevelopment of young people. This issue is not only limited to the excessive use of devices but also to unrestricted access to age-inappropriate content, raising deep concerns about the protection of minors in the digital environment and age verification.
Self-declaration as a weak method of age verification
Self-declaration of age by users to content providers has its limits in terms of ensuring a user is old enough to access. This method relies entirely on the veracity of the information provided by the user, which opens up the possibility of deliberate misrepresentations or simply unintentional errors in the actual age declaration.
Minors can easily avoid self-declaration controls by entering a fake age to access restricted content, undermining the effectiveness of this measure. Self-declaration, therefore, does not provide an adequate level of protection to ensure that children do not access inappropriate material. Content providers should consider more robust and reliable methods of age verification to ensure suitable and safe access to online content and services.
So, what method of verification is thought appropriate?
A combination of several methods is considered suitable for age verification in digital environments:
- Identity document verification: It is a robust method that requires the presentation of an official document, such as national identity cards or passports, to confirm the user’s age. The verification of the user’s age involves a number of validations, most notably the verification of the user’s date of birth. This method may also include the corroboration of other elements like the user’s photo and other data or elements embedded in the document. This additional verification ensures not only the authenticity of the declared date of birth but also the overall validity of the document presented.
- Biometric age verification technology: It uses facial recognition to verify the user’s identity and ensure that it corresponds to the data in the identity documents. The facial recognition process is based on capturing and analysing a person’s unique facial features to confirm their identity.
The acceptance of facial recognition has increased due to its ease of use and its ability to adapt to a wide range of devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Users can freely validate their identity through the recognition of their biometric features for the purpose of gaining access or receiving something in return, such as using a service or accessing a platform.
User eligibility and personal identity protection
It is key to ensure that the user is eligible to access specific information or services online. Age verification and user authentication not only safeguard those under 18 from accessing improper content but also ensure that access is granted only to authorised users. In these verification processes, related to verify the age on internet, the main focus is on confirming the majority rather than verifying the minority.
Nevertheless, requiring each person to prove that they are an authorised user for any kind of online content could conflict with fundamental principles and lead to a scenario where all individuals accessing the Internet would have to identify themselves by default. Verification would only be required in specific use cases, such as access to age-restricted content (18 years) or access to social media (14 years). It would also help in the fight against identity theft on social platforms.
It also aims to prevent children and teens from accessing age-inappropriate content by using identity documents or cards that do not belong to them. In some cases, minors may try to access age-restricted platforms using documents belonging to parents, grandparents or other adults. It poses a significant risk, as the veracity of the information provided to access such content is not guaranteed. Biometrics can be used as an additional security measure to prevent this problem. By implementing biometric authentication in combination with ID verification, a more secure environment is set, helping to protect the integrity of access.
Parental control and device security
It is also necessary to establish parental control measures and reinforce security on devices used by children, whether mobile phones, tablets or computers, to preserve the integrity of their digital identity and prevent under-18 people from a wide variety of content that can hurt them. Ensuring the safety of these devices involves monitoring and implementing parental controls, such as content filters, time restrictions and supervision of online activities.
In addition, adopting security measures on devices goes beyond protecting personal information. It also acts as a protection against unauthorised access in general terms. These measures can include setting strong passwords, using biometric authentication systems as commented, regular security updates and installing anti-virus software.
Use cases in which to apply age verification and biometrics to protect children
Protecting under-18 people on porn sites
Access to sexual content platforms can expose minors to a distorted and violent representation of sexuality, negatively impacting their emotional and cognitive development. Research has shown that exposure to sexually explicit content at an early age can have negative impacts and affect mental health.
The implementation of age verification systems on adult content websites ensures that only users who have reached the age of 18, verified through biometric methods and ID cards (age check with date of birth), can access this type of content. This measure promotes a more responsible and healthy relationship with sexuality, allowing adults to make knowledge-based decisions about their content consumption.
Age verification on audiovisual content platforms
The implementation of age verification systems on video platforms and video-on-demand (VOD) services represents a key measure in the protection of children in the digital environment. These systems act as protection against unintentional access by children to this kind of material, such as graphic violence or content for adults.
In an environment where access to audiovisual content is diverse, it is essential to ensure that minors are not exposed to material that they can imitate through real-life actions. Age verification seems to be an effective barrier, preventing teens from accessing films, series or videos that contain violent images, explicit scenes or content not suitable for their age.
The implementation of these systems is not only a responsibility of audiovisual content platforms but also a social condition. Parents, social organisations and regulators need to cooperate to ensure the right digital environment for children, where they can watch content at their stage of development without being exposed to risky situations. Also, these systems restrict access to harmful content and promote a healthy and protective digital environment for children and teenagers to grow up in.
Authorised and safe access to social media platforms
Social media has changed the way we communicate and share information. Nevertheless, this digital openness can also lead to unwanted interactions. It is in this context that the implementation of age verification for social social media with ID checks and biometrics can protect children from cyberbullying or contact with strangers.
Children’s age verification on social platforms is supported by recent events, such as the imposition of a significant fine on TikTok for failing to safeguard the privacy of minors and for allowing users under the age of 13 to access its platform. It underlines the need for age verification measures to be implemented on Instagram, Tinder and other such platforms.
Gambling, betting and online casino bans
The implementation of age verification systems on gambling and betting platforms prevents the participation of teens in gambling activities, safeguarding their well-being and protecting their family’s economy.
In many countries, access by minors to gambling sites has been a major concern. These platforms can expose young people to financial risks and lead to gambling addiction. To address this problem, regulatory bodies such as the KJM (Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media) have promoted the implementation of stringent age verification measures on online gambling platforms.
Age verification in different countries
Anti-porn project to protect minors in Spain
Spain plans to limit minors’ access to pornographic platforms by implementing a system to verify age with ID cards. This initiative developed together with the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD), the Spanish Mint and the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC), aims to overcome the method of self-declaration by the user.
The proposal plans to introduce a system to verify age with the date of birth associated with the national identity document card or other identification documents such as passports or driving licences.
This draft law for the protection of teens, also known as the anti-porn project, would be in line with the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA).
Debate on reasonable age verification in the United States
In the United States, there is also an ongoing debate on age-verification and porn discussion that is related to current legislative discussions. Companies such as House Bill 3 seek to prevent minors’ access to harmful content through what they call reasonable age verification. Nevertheless, associations, such as the Computer & Communications Industry Association, argue that there is currently no method of reasonable age verification.
United Kingdom: Ofcom and Online Safety Act
Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator, has increased staffing to enforce one of the world’s strictest internet regulations (the Online Safety Act).
The Act gives Ofcom the power to monitor large companies, numerous websites and apps and hold platforms accountable for illegal content, sexual abuse and terrorism with a broad focus on protecting children online.
Ofcom has already published detailed documents and codes of conduct to encourage compliance before it comes into force, including fines of up to 10% of annual global turnover and legal action against senior managers for neglect.
Appropriate data processing and protection
Companies providing services such as the above can implement ID verification and biometric verification software such as MobbScan. Verification systems that use biometric data use biometric templates, which are encrypted mathematical representations and do not store the original biometric data. These templates are irreversible hashes that cannot recreate the original biometric data, ensuring a high level of protection and privacy of biometric information.
Importantly, biometric templates do not contain personally identifiable information or direct biometric data, such as a fingerprint or a face in its original form. Instead, they represent unique mathematical patterns generated from the biometric data that, by design, cannot be reversed to recover the original biometric traits.
Nevertheless, adequate data processing protocols and robust security measures must be in place to protect the integrity and privacy of these hashes.
Reach us if you would like to implement an identity and age verification process to protect children from inappropriate access.
I am a curious mind with knowledge of laws, marketing, and business. A words alchemist, deeply in love with neuromarketing and copywriting, who helps Mobbeel to keep growing.
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