Age Verification, Age Estimation, Age Assurance: What do they mean, and which do I need?

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Age Assurance, age estimation, age verification terms

In an era where digital interactions are increasingly common in every aspect of our lives, ensuring the safety and well-being of users, particularly minors, has become a major concern. For businesses operating in many sectors, both online and instore, there is an increasing requirement to know the age of customers, whether that’s in the online world of adult content, social networks/gaming and online restricted retail, or the offline world of age restricted retail or experiences. Age verification, age estimation and age assurance terms are increasingly referenced. But what exactly do each of these mean? Here we define each term, their differences and similarities, and some of the pros and cons of each method.


Age Verification

Definition:

Age verification is a process that confirms the age of an individual, typically for compliance with legal requirements or industry standards. It ensures that users accessing or purchasing age-restricted content, products or services are of the appropriate age.

Methods:

Traditional age verification methods include document checks, such as driver's licences or passports, and newer digital methods like government-issued IDs uploaded online.

Pros:

  • Robust and legally recognized, providing a clear and verifiable confirmation of age.

Cons:

  • Concerns around privacy are prominent, although on-device, NFC enabled ID solutions can help mitigate this
  • Requires user participation
  • Can be slow and cumbersome, inhibiting seamless digital experiences

Age Estimation

Definition:

Age estimation employs algorithms and technologies to predict a user's age based on various data points, such as facial features or behavioural patterns.

Methods:

Facial or voice estimation technology, behavioural analytics, and machine learning algorithms are commonly used for age estimation. Some solutions employ multi-modal (ie: face and voice) to improve accuracy and increase resilience against generative AI attacks.

Pros:

  • Offers a fast, frictionless user experience that can be seamlessly integrated into products or services
  • Especially useful in scenarios where manual verification is impractical or intrusive
  • Highly trained, multi-modal AI solutions can provide very high accuracy acceptable for a number of user cases  e.g social media,  video games and retail.
  • On-device solutions can provide robust privacy protection

Cons:

  • Accuracy levels can vary depending on the solution used. Employing multi-modal age estimation can increase accuracy
  • Potential consent concerns if not clearly signposted
  • Regulatory frameworks may impact its adoption


Today, many Age Estimation technologies are reaching acceptable levels of accuracy to qualify as age verification, and work particularly well in a Challenge 25 scenario.  Over time we expect that Age Estimation will emerge as a dominant form of age verification, suitable for use in a vast majority of cases.


Age Assurance

Definition:

Age assurance is a broader concept that encompasses both age verification and age estimation. It focuses on ensuring that users are who they claim to be and are within the appropriate age range for the given context.

Methods:

Could be any of the age verification or age estimation techniques above and can combine traditional verification processes with cutting-edge technologies like biometrics, AI, and behavioural analysis to create a comprehensive approach.

What Age Assurance is NOT:

Age Assurance methods do not include user confirmation of age where users tick a box to say they are over 18 or simply enter their age or date of birth without any additional checks. This basic method is still used by many online services, but with more robust new laws around age assurance and online safety, this will no longer be sufficient.

Tailoring solutions to industry needs

Different industries may have unique requirements regarding age-related compliance. Understanding the nuances of age verification, estimation and assurance allows businesses to tailor solutions that align with their specific industry standards.


Balancing user experience and compliance

Achieving a balance between providing a seamless user experience and adhering to regulatory requirements is crucial. Businesses need to implement solutions that prioritise both user convenience and legal obligations, including maintaining user privacy.


Staying ahead of ongoing regulatory developments

As the digital landscape evolves, so do regulatory frameworks. Businesses must stay informed about changes in laws and standards related to age verification and privacy and adapt their strategies accordingly. Specialist providers such as Privately can help businesses to navigate this complex regulatory environment and ensure they have the correct solutions in place.


User Data Privacy

It is very important to give the utmost consideration to user data privacy implications when considering different age assurance systems. All age assurance systems are not created equal and some might place additional risk of data regulation breaches and class action on your business, especially in the USA and when it comes to children’s data. It is vital to know how your age assurance provider conforms to GDPR, DSA , BIPA and COPPA regulations.


Embracing technological advancements responsibly

Leveraging innovative technologies is essential for robust age-related solutions. However, businesses must adopt these technologies responsibly, considering user consent, privacy implications, and potential ethical concerns. They should look for providers whose technology is independently certified for performance by accredited bodies. One such independent certification is the UKAS certification offered by ACCS in the United Kingdom.  

In the dynamic and interconnected world of restricted retail, gaming, social networks, and device manufacturing, the responsible use of age assurance, estimation, and verification technologies is paramount. By understanding the distinctions between these terms and carefully weighing their pros and cons, businesses can navigate the landscape effectively, ensuring both regulatory compliance and a positive user experience. As industry leaders, it is our collective responsibility to foster a digital environment that is secure, trustworthy, and respectful of user privacy.


Privately offer a range of digital age assurance solutions for both online and offline businesses.


Age Estimation: Privately provide UKAS Certified highly reliable and robust multi-modal age estimation solutions that can incorporate face, voice and text analysis to determine age, all processed 100% on-device to ensure full privacy protection.


Age Verification: Privately’s age verification solutions provide on-device extraction of user information, face matching and age confirmation from an NFC enabled Identity Document. Keeping processing on-device again ensures the solution is fully privacy-preserving.

For more information, or to see how Privately can help you with age assurance, get in touch today

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