In the digital age, the widespread use of the internet has aided access to age-restricted products and services. Minors are also aware of the situation and exploit the situation to access harmful resources online. Governments have tried to take control of the situation by enacting strict laws and regulations regarding age verification. Businesses are responsible to confirm their customer’s identities and make sure that the products and services are suitable for them. Failing to do so can put them in hot waters and result in hefty fines and business sanctions. Hence it is the responsibility of institutions to verify the age of customers through effective age verification techniques and prevent access to age-restricted products and services.
Manual age checks and their inefficacy
Due to the immense pressure to comply with age verification laws, businesses started using various techniques to validate the age of customers. The manual age gates are very common and are used in abundance even today. There are various customer identity checks placed on the websites during the purchase of products or services.
The manual age gates ask users to enter their date of birth manually into a data field. The system calculates the age, verifies the user, and grants access. In other cases, check-boxes labeled as “I am 18 years old or above” are used to ensure safe access. A study confirmed that 39% of minors in the USA lie about their age in manual age checks. It shows the inefficacy of manual age checks and demands for an upgrade in the technology.
Fraudsters exploitation of weak security
Weak age checks have given minors, an easy access to harmful products and services that can be found in abundance on the internet. They are mostly unaware of the consequences of exposure to explicit content. Children can access age-restricted content online, such as signing up on dating websites, purchasing tobacco and alcohol, access to dangerous weapons and pornographic material. Fraudsters consider minors as weak targets and can trap them into accessing age-restricted content. On dating sites, romance scammers target teenagers and fool them into sending gifts and money. Drug dealers use children to transport drugs and conduct other such criminal activities. In worse cases, sex offenders and pedophiles are able to contact and communicate with minors for their sinful intentions. The manual age checks are not only letting minors gain access to the adult content, but also making it easier for criminals to target minors using online platforms.
Hence, critical to protect minors from fraudsters with advanced age verification solutions.
Age verification Solutions (AVS)
Age verification solutions are advanced online age checks that run in real-time. The AVS solutions integrate advanced digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The digital nature of AVS solutions makes it difficult to lie to the system hence providing better security. The user requesting access to age-restricted content has to provide identity documents to the system. Using the OCR technology, AVS extracts data from the id-document with high accuracy. Some of the advanced OCR systems can and also identify if the document is forged or not. Thus making it difficult for users to lie about their age.
Steps included AVS:
- The user tries to access the age-restricted content.
- System generates an alert and requests the user to enter age.
- User enters the age into the datafield.
- AVS requests the user to provide the picture of an id-document.
- The OCR embedded with Artificial intelligence and deep machine learning technology extracts data from the document. This technology also detects if the documents are forged or not.
- Data extracted is matched with the data provided by the user in the initial stage.
- Results are generated according to the match. The user is verified if the result is successful and granted access. If the result is not successful, the user is alerted and asked to provide authentic documents.
Limitations and criticism
The AVS solution works fast and can be very efficient in preventing minors from age-restricted access. However, some limitations may arise. Minors can dodge the system by providing ID documents of someone else. In some reported cases, children stole the id-documents of their parents to trick the AVS system. Some platforms are only restricted to young age groups, e,g social groups, etc. Fraudsters or scammers can forge documents to bypass these age checks.
However, it can be argued that these AVS solutions make it difficult for children and scammers to lie about their age. Moreover, these modern age checks put businesses in a relaxing position by helping them comply with government regulations. By taking strong measures to ensure the safety of children, online businesses can win the trust of the public and appease law enforcement bodies. If the user submits actual documentation, online age verification can be quite effective. Fake documents, on the other hand, can fool the system. Furthermore, because this method of verification necessitates the submission of papers, it can be burdensome for consumers.
Minors are knowingly and unknowingly accessing explicit content online. Online platforms tried various manual age gates to prevent easy access to such harmful resources. However, these age gates that request users to enter age manually, are proven to be ineffective. Thus, more advanced age verification solutions based on advanced technology are needed. The digital AVS solutions request users to provide Identity documents in order to proceed to the next stage. This method is effective and can be fruitful in the majority of cases. However, if the children have access to the identity documents of their parents, they can dodge the checks. It can be said that there is still a need for more advancement in age verification techniques.