Identity verification: An age-old problem

As kids get on the Internet at a younger age and spend more time surfing, age verification systems must be bolstered to beat spoofing. — Face id vector created by pch.vector -

Countries such as Switzerland, the United Kingdom and, most recently, Australia are asking for extra safeguards to be implemented to ensure those under the age of 18 will not be able to access online content deemed unsuitable for their age.

Google Australia announced in March that it may require users to produce additional proof of age before being allowed to view mature content on YouTube or download certain apps or games from the Google Play store.

If the system is unable to establish that the viewer is over the age of 18, he or she may be asked to provide a valid ID or credit card to verify age.

The company said that the Australian Online Safety (Restricted Access Systems) Declaration requires this extra step.

Frederic Ho, vice president of Asia Pacific at Jumio Corp, says such measures are becoming increasingly necessary as more children are given smartphones at a younger age, but he cautions that adding more requirements and complexity to the mix may frustrate users.

Ho warns that information related to our identity are treasure troves of data waiting to be exploited. — JumioHo warns that information related to our identity are treasure troves of data waiting to be exploited. — Jumio

For instance, The Cyber Security Awareness Baseline Study Among Students and Parents 2021/2022 found that a majority of primary school children spent between one and four hours online per day, compared to only twice or three times a week back in 2016.

This makes age verification a concern among parents, as they may not be able to monitor what their children are exposed to online.

“Conversations around online safety have become an indispensable topic for Malaysian parents.

“However, users may find the process of providing additional information, such as uploading their online ID, to be laborious,” he says.

To make it a more pleasant experience for the user, the technology employed must be fast, ideally able to verify a person in just 30 seconds, he says.

He says today’s technology will be able to detect if someone tries to fool the system by taking a picture of another person’s photograph.

He says the industry utilises a technology called liveness to detect if a live person is in front of the camera, and that it has been industry tested to detect spoofing techniques such as employing 2D masks and even deepfake videos.

Users may also be concerned about how their personal information is being handled, he adds.

“Information related to our identity is a treasure trove of data waiting to be exploited.

“If users have to upload their personal info to every site, then the risk of data leakage is multiplied. If a site is breached, the data may be stolen and end up on the dark web.

“There is a difficult balance to maintain between the need to control consumption of content and the method being used to verify identity,” he says.

For an age or identity verification system to succeed, an environment of trust must first be established, says Ho.

“Through some control and regulation, users can get the assurance they need,” he says.

In the Digital Identity 2022 study by Jumio, covering 8,000 participants across the UK, US, Mexico and Singapore, 80% of consumers said they would engage with an organisation that has robust identity verification measures in place.

The study also revealed that 83% of users felt it was crucial for social media platforms to verify identities so that users could be held accountable for online hate speech or comments.

This shows that users have come to expect online services to have some form of identity verification before allowing users to access their services.

“Success in the digital banking space is an example of how identity verification measures can be implemented.

“The method that is being used to on-board users can be extended to other platforms that want to introduce age-restricted access,” he says.

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