Thursday, July 29, 2021

Age Verification Tactics for Protecting Minors Online

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Lokesh Jaral
Being an enthusiast who likes to spend time binge-watching TV shows and movies and following the hype in the media and entertainment world. Exploring the field of technology and entertainment, I am here to share the varied experiences on this blog.

The widespread use of smartphones and the rise in popularity of social media has introduced new challenges for parenthood. In fact, according to a survey by Pew Research Center, 66% of parents in the U.S. who have at least one child below the age of 18 claim that parenting has become harder today as compared to how it was 20 years ago. The reason? Technology. 

From social interactions to entertainment, minors of this generation are fully capable of understanding how technology works. Being frequent users of the internet and digital devices, many online opportunities have been created to enhance children’s growth, development and learning. On the other hand, the internet and digital technology also brings forward risks to the safety, protection and well-being of minors. Although children may be highly adept at the digital space, they hardly have any understanding of the threats they may be unknowingly subject to. Therefore, digital age verification has become the need of the hour, especially to safeguard minors.

Online Age Verification

Online age verification refers to the process of verifying the age and identity of any customer that may be buying specific age-restricted products through the internet. Online sellers of age-restricted products and services are legally and ethically bound to restrict the access of their products to underage customers. Generally, companies use age verification software for this purpose and the steps involved within this process are listed below:

  1. The user shows their ID document to the camera from which Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is extracted. Acceptable ID documents  include a government-issued ID card, passport, utility bills, credit/debit card, etc.
  2. Using age details from the documents, accurate comparison checks are performed based on the entered date of birth by the user
  3. After confirming the age, the software checks it against the age bracket that is required by the website
  4. The results are then displayed to the customer and updated in the back office. If the user is within the allowed age bracket, access is given within seconds. In case of underage users, access is denied 

The lack of awareness regarding age verification can lead to businesses facing several drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of these risks:

Age Verification Related Risks for Businesses

Lawmakers today have recognized the importance of establishing clear-cut regulations for verifying customer’s age. Companies that fail to comply with these regulations face the following consequences: 

  1. Negative impact on the brand’s image and reputation
  2. Fines and Penalties
  3. Risk of getting permanently blacklisted 

Age Verification Regulations for Minor Protection

Allowing minors to create online profiles might just be the recipe for disaster, particularly due to the fact that it enables access to content that may not be meant for underage children. Therefore, depending on the jurisdiction and different industries, strict laws have been introduced. 

For example, in the U.S., the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) restricts the collection of PII from minors (below the age of 13) without the consent of their parents. In the EU, GDPR has similar restrictions regarding the collection of personal information from children below the age of 16. 

The consequences for not meeting these regulatory requirements are especially harsh. Musical.ly, a lip-sync video making application now known as TikTok, paid a fine worth US$5.7 million in 2019 for allowing minors to create accounts online and for accessing their name, location, email IDs and videos. 

Tactics for Ensuring the User is an Adult

  • Self Verification

This is the most common method of making age checks. In this method, the website requests the user to confirm their age by checkboxes. In other cases, the users are simply asked to enter their date of birth.in case the user is underage, access to the website is restricted. 

  • Credit or Debit Card Verification

This tactic is usually opted by online stores and E-commerce businesses where the user is asked to verify their identity and age via credit or debit cards. However, this tactic is not as efficient and is mostly used for verifying customer identity.


  • Verification on Delivery

Many online businesses today employ third-party service providers for delivering a purchased item and also entrust them with the responsibility of verifying the user’s age. However, this method is risky and may be subject to error.


  • Online Age Verification Using ID documents and Biometrics

With the help of cameras in smartphones, ID documents can be shown to prove customer age and identity. The process of biometric verification is as simple as taking a selfie to verify that the documents shown belong to the same person that is trying to access the site.

 

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