Instagram tests face scans to help users verify their age

(Pocket-lint) – Instagram is testing out new ways for users to verify their accounts, including one method that aims to estimate age with a video scan of the face.

At present, one of the instances in which the app requires users to verify their age is when they edit their birth date, which can be done via pictures of ID cards. However, the Meta-owned app is now introducing a couple of new methods to help streamline this process – social vouching and AI estimation through video selfies.

The former, social vouching, simply sees Instagram ask three mutual followers of the user to confirm how old they are, with these followers naturally needing to be verified as above 18 years old. Those who have been asked then have three days to respond to the request. 

The face-scanning method, however, involves users sending a video selfie to a third-party company, Yoti, which then uses machine learning to punch out an estimation of the person’s age.

Yoti already employs similar technology for ID verification that’s approved by the UK government and digital regulators in Germany, working by spotting facial signals. You can actually try it here, with the company also indicating that it doesn’t retain any data you share with it.

It’s not yet clear how Instagram will harness the technology in order to help its own verification methods, but we expect it works in much the same way as Yoti’s web demo.

And it will likely be a welcome addition to the app experience. After all, while users are required to be at least 13 years old to sign up for an Instagram account, the app didn’t really have any methods in place to help control this – not even asking new users their birth date – until 2019. Even then, only last year did inputting a birth date become mandatory for all users (though this could have also been taken automatically from a Facebook account).

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The app is improving in this regard, though, and now even uses tools that aim to spot signals in the likes of birthday celebration posts, checking whether the details match up with a user’s claimed age. If they don’t, they are then flagged, and age verification may be required.

This pair of newly introduced methods, then, form part of a wider effort from Instagram to help improve the safety and security of users on the app – and while it’s certainly a very complicated assignment, things like this do appear to be a step in the right direction. 

Writing by Conor Allison.

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