Instagram scans faces to prove users are over 18 years old

  • Instagram said it is trying new ways to verify users’ ages, including scanning their faces.
  • Alternatively, users can also have three friends vouch for their age or upload pictures of their ID cards.
  • The trial started on June 23 in the United States.

Instagram is testing new ways to verify users’ ages, including scanning their faces.

The company announced the study, which began June 23 and is currently only being rolled out in the United States, in a blog post. The trial is focused on users trying to change their age from under 18 to over 18 in the app. These users have three options for verifying their age: upload a photo of their ID, ask three mutual friends to verify their age, or draw a video selfie.

When a user selects the video selfie method, Instagram forwards the videos to a London-based identity verification startup, Yoti. Yoti will scan the user’s facial features in the videos to confirm their age, the company said.

Both Yoti and Instagram will delete the data once they verify the user’s age as per the announcement. The London startup’s algorithm only verifies the user’s age and not their identity, Instagram wrote, citing a white paper by Yoti.

Instagram said the process will allow it to offer age-appropriate content to its users.

“Understanding a person’s age online is a complex, industry-wide challenge. We want to work with others in our industry and with governments to set clear standards for online age verification,” the company wrote in the blog post.

If a user sends in a photo of their ID to verify their age, the image will be deleted after 30 days, the company said.

Instagram has come under fire from parents and critics who say the company is exposing minors to harmful content. In 2019, Instagram began verifying users’ ages to prevent anyone under the age of 13 from creating accounts. In August, it started asking existing users to provide their birthdays. And in September, Facebook — which owns Instagram, which has since been rebranded as Meta — suspended the launch of Instagram Kids, a version of the app it developed for children under 13.

Other social media companies also scan users’ faces to prevent minors from using their platforms. French social networking site Yubo announced in May that it was working with Yoti to capture images of users’ faces to identify minors. China’s Tencent said in January it would scan users’ faces when they log in to limit children’s playtime on its platform.

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