Instagram has just announced the deployment, in the USA, of a technology intended to predict the age of its users via a simple video selfie, with a view to blocking access to its platform to children under 13. A solution currently in the test phase, which could soon arrive.
Like most social networks, including Facebook, Instagram is not supposed to be accessible before the age of 13. In theory, at least, because in practice, nothing prevents a child escaping the supervision of its parents from registering on the platform.
A situation that has led to strong criticism of the service, which Meta owns. This prompted Instagram to set up, from 2020, the possibility of verifying the identity of its users using a passport or identity card photo.
The objective of this approach is as much to verify the age of the person behind the screen as the legitimacy of his/her activities on the platform.
But now, Instagram wants to go further and for that, the service has partnered with the start-up Yoti to develop a new way to control the age of people who register.
The video selfie, a new identity check
“Starting today, we’re testing new options for Instagram users to verify their age, starting with people based in the United States,” explains Instagram in a statement.
“If someone is looking to change their date of birth from under 18 to over 18, we ask them to validate their age using one of three options: a copy of his ID, a video selfie or a validation from mutual friends.”
Of the three proposals, the least restrictive to use is undoubtedly the most surprising: that of the video selfie. This solution is based on an artificial intelligence developed by Yoti.
The company would have a 98.91% success rate in identifying the age of children, when they are between 6 and 11 years old. A margin of error of 1.56 years still exists for children aged 6 to 12, and another of 1.52 years when children are between 13 and 19 years old.
In the face of privacy issues, Instagram seeks to be reassuring :
“We share the video selfie with Yoti, and no one else. Yoti’s technology estimates your age based on your facial features and shares this estimate with us. Meta and Yoti then delete the image. Technology cannot recognize your identity — only your age.”
A solution soon to be deployed globally?
Currently, this identification proposal is only used in the United States. If the break-in proves conclusive, it’s a safe bet that Instagram will deploy it elsewhere, since the issue around age on Instagram is present everywhere in the world.
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life’s biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.