Instagram wants to check your age by scanning your face

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Instagram is testing new ways to verify users’ ages, including an artificial intelligence tool created by a third-party company, Yoti, that estimates your age just by scanning your face.

In the official case, you must be at least 13 years old in order to register for an Instagram account. But the company has made no effort for years to enforce this rule.

Until 2019 it was not asking new users for their date of birth, let alone trying to verify this information.

After a wave against it from privacy and child safety experts,  Instagram introduced more age-verification features, as well as ways to separate younger users from adults.

The platform currently requires users to verify age when teens attempt to edit their date of birth to show they are 18 or older.

To verify their age, users can submit photos of different ID cards. It also now provides US users with Social Security and Artificial Intelligence Estimation options.

For social security, the platform asks three common followers of the user to confirm their age. Subscribed followers must be over 18 years old and have three days to respond to the platform’s request.

Whereas, the AI ​​estimation method involves sending a personalized video to Yoti, which uses machine learning to estimate a person’s age.

Yoti is a well-known company in the field of online age and identity verification. Its technology has been approved for use by the UK government and German digital regulators. Various facial cues are used to estimate the age of the target.

Instagram is currently testing an AI tool

You can try the Yoti system on the web. The company says it does not keep any data you share with it. The company provides a table showing  accuracy rates.

The numbers, in years, show the rate of error in Yoti’s age estimates for different age groups, skin color, and genders.

The data shows that the Yoti system is less accurate for the faces of women and people with darker skin. Its estimate could also be 2.5 years lower for those under 24.

However, if the tool makes a broad guess about the age of the user, its accuracy improves. A 2020 analysis of Yoti by a third-party nonprofit found that it is 98.89% reliable in guessing whether 18-year-olds are older or younger than 25.

It’s not clear how these numbers translate to Instagram’s use case, or whether the system is secure enough for this.

It is mentioned that this is not the only tool that Instagram uses to try to estimate the ages of users as well. Since 2019, the company has been using automated systems to search for underage users.

These tools check information such as posts for users’ birthdays and the ages of friend groups. As a result if a user claims to be 20 but posts about celebrating their 17th birthday, their account is flagged and may have to verify their age.

Instagram says it is adding new data points to this system. It also tests a language analysis tool that determines whether the user is an adult or a teenager based on how they type.

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