What is age verification? 

Identity verification is a process that confirms the identity of a person. Although at the moment there are several different methods of verifying one’s identity. Every method is based on extracting and validating the same details, such as given name(s), last name(s), nationality, and the date of birth. Confirming the date of birth (age verification) of a person can be the most significant step for certain industries and companies, whose services or products are age-restricted. 

Age verification checks have been a part of our lives for years. It is common to expect a store clerk to check the details of our ID while buying certain products, such as alcohol or cigarettes. The situation looks similar when it comes to entertainment. Cinemas tend to verify the age of younger-looking audience members before allowing them to enter a screening of age-restricted movies, and often it is necessary to present an ID while entering certain places, such as live concerts, pubs or clubs. 

Accordingly, due to the fast development of e-commerce and growing popularity of online entertainment and other services among people of all ages, it became necessary to implement some sort of age verification tools online as well.

What age verification methods are most popular now? 

As of today, online age verification has also become a part of everyday online browsing. There are several instances where age verification is necessary. For example, it is required while accessing explicit articles or materials, browsing online stores that carry products not intended for minors, or creating social media or dating profiles.

The most common and standard ways that are currently used to confirm one’s age online, are: 

  • Self declaration: One of the simplest age verification methods, which usually appears in the form of a pop-up window, requiring users to confirm being over a certain age. 
  • Birth date validation: This widely-used method requires a user to provide their date of birth in order to proceed their actions or access the contents of a website. 

Those common processes often go unnoticed by most – they’re extremely easy, quick, and don’t require much action from users. Despite the fact that those characteristics might seem like a great advantage, they are also an indication of possible ineffectiveness of said methods. It is fairly easy for minors to cheat and omit any limitations by simply confirming being of a certain age or submitting a fake date of birth, which in no way can be regulated or controlled by the service providers.  

In general, the issue might not seem too serious when it comes to underage people accessing stores with age-restricted items or viewing explicit articles or materials. However, the issue should certainly be treated more cautiously when it comes to other services, such as: online gambling, e-gaming, social media, online dating services, or increasingly popular in the past few years cryptocurrency-related services. Actively using those, or participating in offered services by underage people or young children can result inexposure to several types of hazards online. 

Why is online age verification needed?

There are several reasons for which age verification online is essential in certain situations. In addition to situations correlating with those that are also common offline (such as buying age-restricted items, entering certain premises, etc), there are additional factors that should be considered in case of online age verification. Because age verification is one of the key parts of  KYC (Know Your Customer) checks, depending on the industry and the character of provided services, it is what’s thoroughly supervised by regulators globally. 

Which online industries require age verification?

Social media and dating apps. 

The usage of social media around the world is ever-increasing and is, without a doubt, one of the most popular online activities that internet users engage in. 

The latest social media statistics show that there are 4.48 billion social media users worldwide in 2021 – and this number is only expected to grow over the next few years. Social media platforms, due to their nature and general purpose, encourage online social interactions, which in case of underage users can result in inappropriate engagement or communication. 

Because of this reason, at the end of last month, one of the biggest social media platforms – Instagram – introduced a new policy. From now on, anyone signing up to the service, who’s under the age of 16 (or 18 in some countries) will have their account set to private by default. The option to switch back to public will be available for users, although Instagram actively encourages younger people to choose the private account mode. It allows users to have full control over who’s viewing and engaging with their profile.

The change is yet another step taken by the platform in order to protect its younger users. Earlier this year, Instagram restricted profiles of people under a certain age to appear in searches, be followed or messaged by accounts considered to be “suspicious”. Suspicious accounts are the ones that are owned by adult users who have been previously blocked or reported by minors on the platform. 

Gambling and online gaming 

In 2021, several countries across Europe toughened their stance on the protection of minors. In Germany, from July 2021 online gaming and gambling operators are required to ensure they put necessary restrictions in place and take steps to prevent minors from accessing their platforms.

In France, gambling regulator, l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ), oversees all forms of gambling in the country, including online gambling and betting services, online casinos, as well as lottery games and race betting. 

ANJ has marked its intentions to overhaul public policies and consumer protections related to minimising “excessive gambling and improving the protection of minors”, which includes online services. 

Organizations across the UK have time until September of 2021 to prepare for the Age Appropriate Design Code. This statutory code of practice for online services will require digital services and organizations to automatically cover minors with a built-in baseline of data protection.

Cryptocurrency trading

As the value of certain cryptocurrencies and the popularity of crypto-exchanges increased, so did the interest of fraudsters, and the risk of cybercrimes such as money laundering or identity theft. 

Due to the growing risk of suspicious activity in this sector, the industry is expected to fall under stricter regulations in many countries. 

Some of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance – which requires its users to be older than 18 in order to create an account – have already put in place restrictions for unverified users.  

Many expect cryptocurrency exchanges to be treated and regulated in a similar manner to financial institutions. Countries such as Canada and the UK have already made adjustments that follow this narrative. In such cases, age verification is one of the key points of identity verification of crypto exchanges’ users. 

What are reliable age verification solutions? 

Although there are steps taken to protect minors from risks across several sectors online, it is essential to ensure that the age verifying tools chosen by service providers are effective and accurate, in order to be fully compliant and ensure the highest security. One of the most important factors to consider is choosing the right provider in order to ensure proper age verification. 

Reliable age verification online should not be based purely on the information submitted by the users, due to the risk of providing inaccurate or fraudulent information. It is recommended that instead, the verification process should be based on:

  • Extracted information from the ID documents such as ID card, passport, driving license provided by the user.
  • Biometric features. For example, during a face verification process, in order to confirm the ownership of the identity document. Verification based on biometric features of a user can be also used through tools allowing to determine the user’s age based on their biometric characteristics.

Fully-Verified offers  video identity verification methods that allow to verify users’ identity and age. This process is supported by artificial intelligence, a software that extracts, analyzes and validates data on a document. Moreover, the process is led or supervised by a trained operator, which ensures the highest level of security and accuracy. 

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Fully-Verified was created as answer to its founders collectively losing over $150 000 to various types of fraud in their eCommerce businesses.