Instagram is Testing Age Verification Through Facial Scanning

Instagram logo

Instagram has announced that it is testing three new ways to verify the ages of its users in the United States, including a partnership with Yoti that estimates age based on a facial scan.

Instagram requires users to be 13 years or older to sign up for the platform in the United States. To this point, while that is company policy, it has done little to prevent users from lying about their ages to gain access. Since its Instagram for Kids initiative appears to be on indefinite hold, the company is taking major steps to address this problem.

“In 2019, we began asking people to provide their age when signing up for Instagram. Since then, we’ve made this a requirement,” Instagram says. “Knowing people’s age allows us to provide appropriate experiences to different age groups, specifically teens.”

In an attempt to prevent people from lying about their age, Instagram is testing three ways that will allow it to verify the claims. Users can choose to upload their ID, they can ask mutual friends to verify their ages, or they can record a video selfie.

age verification

That last option will work thanks to the company’s partnership with Yoti, a company that specializes in privacy-preserving ways to verify age. The company says its age-checking service securely and accurately estimates a person’s age based on their face.

“We’re partnering with Yoti, a company that offers privacy-preserving ways to verify age. Yoti is verified by the Age Check Certification Scheme and is the leading age verification provider for several industries around the world including social media, gaming and age-restricted e-commerce,” Instagram says.

“Expert and governmental organizations in youth and privacy, including the German regulator KJM, have publicly endorsed Yoti for their approach and expertise in responsible artificial intelligence (AI).”

Yoti says that its algorithm can accurately estimate the age of millions of people in a private and secure way. It boasts that its tool is a “scalable solution” which is quicker and more accurate than manual ID checks and can be used in the provision of any age-restricted goods and services, both online and in person.

Instagram plans to pass the uploaded video selfies to Yoti for verification and promises the video won’t be sent anywhere else. After Yoti has estimated an age, Instagram says that both its parent company Meta and Yoti delete the image. Instgram also clarifies that the technology Yoti uses “cannot recognize your identity” and only serves to estimate age.

Instagram says that in addition to these methods of age verification, the company is also using AI to determine if someone is a teen or an adult.

“AI helps us prevent teens from accessing Facebook Dating, adults from messaging teens and helps teens from receiving restricted ad content, for example. Our goal is to expand the use of this technology more widely across our technologies,” Instagram says.

The company has written a blog post that explains how that technology works.

While Instagram says these new age verification techniques are a test, given the detail in which it explains its partnership with Yoti, the feature is likely to roll out to all users in the near future.