Online Age Verification Keeps A Tight Rein On Minors

  • Richard Marley
  • September 23, 2019
  • 5 minutes read
  • 2700

According to The Newyork Times, online age verification is a daunting task, even for experts. However, there is an increasing need for online businesses to build a sound and robust system for users’ or buyer’s age verification. More recently, businesses have also been made legally bound, if not morally. The UK government passed a law on December 2018, which renders businesses and online services to apply age verification measures.

It isn’t that most of such websites don’t put safeguards for age verification; most of them do as they are required to do so legally. However, in most cases, such safeguards are bypassed by clever underage visitors, determined to buy age-restricted products and services. The following are the ways how some online business sectors can use digital identity solutions to keep users’ identities safe and ensure age verification requirements are followed:

Online Gaming & Gambling

Online gamers are increasingly using real currency to pay for in-game goods. Regulators allege these exchanges open up new pathways for criminals to commit digital fraud and launder money. In addition, it’s possible that online gaming could be damaging young players, eliciting gambling addiction. These concerns are prompting regulators to go for identity and age verification in the online gaming world, but each game faces its own set of challenges during identity authentication.

Another solution is liveness detection, which requires players to be physically present during the verification process so they can submit photos, video playback to confirm their identities.

Social Media

According to BBC News, renowned messaging service WhatsApp is banning under-16s from using its platform in the European Union. 

Almost all other social media services require users to be at least 13 years old to access and use their services. This includes Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Skype. There is no age restriction for watching videos on YouTube, users need to be 13 or older to have their own YouTube account.

Social media is under increased scrutiny. There have been reports in recent weeks that children as young as eight-year-olds are using dating apps. While internet security is a moving paradigm, one thing that’s clear is a lot of challenges associated with social media are about identity. Verified digital identities and effective age verification can solve several challenges that hamper a safe social media experience, especially for children and young people.

A digital identity company from the UK has been recently partnered by a social networking site Yubo, which is using their age estimation technology to flag any accounts where people appear to have misstated their age. In this regard, Yubo can be confident that individuals on their site are of appropriate age, creating a safer platform. So digital identification can curb fake social media accounts.

Online Stores-Age Restricted Products

According to a recent report by Sandhills Sentinel, one of North Carolina’s top prosecutors expanded his efforts to halt e-cigarette sales to teens on Tuesday by suing eight more manufacturers and sellers of vaping products.

Josh Stein, the Democratic attorney general is filing lawsuits against eight companies that make or sell e-cigarettes and related products to underage people. Juul Labs announced that Juul is working to implement an ID verification system that prohibits selling of e-cigarettes to underage shoppers. The company said that it has enhanced its online age verification process and stopped the sale of flavors other than tobacco and menthol in retail stores so that sales can be restricted to adults only.

The products which are age-restricted are delivered. Relying on the delivery person to verify the customer’s age comes with inherent risks. For instance, how to be certain that the delivery guy has identity and age verification expertise? Are they thorough in doing their due diligence on each customer that they deliver to? Is there a way to track the verification and authentication process? 

For instance, online alcohol sales grew tremendously in the past few years. In a recent string, it came to light that over 20% of underage people were able to buy it online through some app. So this surely can be stopped by using identity verification software. When someone orders anything, before checking out, age and identity should be verified digitally to avoid forgery and limit the sales of such products to adults only.

GDPR and Age Verification

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May, will give people much more control over how companies use their information. Rules are included to protect minors whose personal data is processed to provide online services. Most social media apps, including  Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Reddit, are restricted to those aged 13 and over. This is in part because of US law – the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (Coppa) that bans online services from collecting personal information about younger children.

Facebook has launched Messenger Kids, an app for children as young as six, last December. It is an ad-free service designed to be compliant with Coppa.

Age Verification – A Legal Requirement

Whether you run an online gaming (gambling) service, or an online store selling eCigarettes, cannabis or alcohol, conducting age verification is a legal requirement in jurisdictions that permit such online activities. Like identity verification procedures, age verification shouldn’t serve the purpose of regulatory compliance alone; it needs to be designed to deliver an optimal online experience that prevents minors from entering age-restricted sites.

Online businesses should have a robust system where they can verify users’ age. Recently, businesses have been made legally bound by regulatory authorities to verify. In December 2018, the UK government managed to pass legislation that requires businesses and age-restricted online services to abide by age verification measures. Furthermore, many businesses outsource their courier services and therefore, leave the delivery person to perform an identity checks of the buyer. But not all delivery services are liable to do so. Thus there is a need for a reliable age verification service.