How Can a Solution Verify the Ages of Older and Younger Adults?

Child sitting at a table, typing on a tablet.

Is it possible to verify the ages of both older and younger adults? While age estimation solutions cannot work with younger adults, data-backed age verification solutions work with all adults accurately and quickly.

An increase in government age restrictions

Governments are increasing age-related restrictions on goods and services. Here are a few examples:

Gambling: All government jurisdictions regulate in-person or online gambling. In the United States, gambling is usually prohibited for people under the age of 18 or under the age of 21, depending upon the locality and the type of gambling activity. As online gambling, iGaming, and sports betting become more easily accessible online, the need for age verification increases.

Controlled Substances: Similarly, all government jurisdictions regulate underage access to tobacco, alcohol, and (where legal) marijuana. Usually, governments limit the purchase of such substances to persons aged 21 and over. For example, the U.S. federal government mandates a minimum tobacco purchase age of 21 in all states without exception and also mandates age verification for online advertisements and deliveries.

Social Media: Social media companies have historically prohibited services to people under 13 years of age. They are now facing government requirements to restrict activities for users under the age of 18. Such a law has already passed in Utah but is delayed because of court challenges. Related legislation has been proposed in the states of Florida, New York, and North Carolina. The legislature rejected similar bills in Virginia.

Adult Content: Legislation also restricts underage access to adult images, videos, or related content. Utah is one of several states that require adult websites to verify the ages of its users.

Other Sites: Governments may restrict underage access to other sites. The scope of the UK Online Safety Act (previously discussed by Aristotle here) may not only apply to traditional social media sites, but also “public interest projects” such as Wikipedia.

Age estimation is not proven for younger adults

Some proponents advocate use of speedy and privacy-protecting age estimation instead of age verification. Rather than verifying a person’s actual age based upon authoritative sources, age estimation uses artificial intelligence and facial analysis to estimate the age of a person.

But does age estimation fulfill government age restriction laws and their intent?

There are two possible errors when estimating the age of a person:

  • The estimated age may be higher than the real age, potentially allowing a child to access adult services.
  • The estimated age may be lower than the real age, potentially preventing an adult from accessing adult services.
  • You can correct for one error or the other, but not both. Because governments judge the need to protect children as more critical, age estimation solutions usually try to avoid the first error, increasing the results of the second error and denying adults the right to access adult services without additional checks.
  • Finally, and importantly, there is NO guarantee that the facial image belongs to the user. In an era of AI, deep fakes, and mobile phone ubiquity, how can one be certain that the user being age estimated is indeed the account holder? A simple photo of an unsuspecting adult or even older sibling is all that is required to bypass any age gating. Perhaps a monthly recheck would help this but since biometric data is typically eliminated post estimation there is no control.

As an example of correcting for the first error above, when the UK Retail of Alcohol Standards Group conducted a trial of age estimation technologies, the minimum acceptable age for algorithmic approval was set to age 28 or higher in a test that involved 18 and 19 year olds. Because no underage person was approved for a purchase, the test was a “success,” but was it really? How many younger adults could not purchase adult products without undergoing authoritative age verification?

A March 2023 study used a similar system that denied acceptance to younger adults, recording that the True Positive Rate (TPR) for 13-17 year olds being correctly estimated as under 25 was 99.93%, and that the TPR for 6-11 year olds being correctly estimated as under 13 is 98.35%. These are very strict measures; why use “under 25” to measure an adult, when the age of an adult is 21 or 18 depending upon the use case? And even with these overly strict age measures, 2 out of 100 young children successfully evaded the 13 year old requirement.

In summary, this ensures that children cannot purchase adult products, but also means that some younger adults can’t purchase adult products either until they submitted to a secondary process.

In other words, age estimation may work for older adults, but younger adults will have to undergo robust age verification anyway.

Why not select a solution that works for everyone—robust age verification backed by accurate age information rather than algorithmic estimates?

A solution that supports age-related laws

Your age verification solution must be fast and accurate and must respect its users.

  • Fast: An ideal solution would provide rapid results, identifying the ages of people in under 3 seconds.
  • Accurate: An ideal solution would provide a high degree of confidence in a person’s age by using authoritative government information, rather than algorithmic guesses. The solution must also allow analysis of a user’s government ID and identify attempts to use fraudulent fake IDs.
  • Respect Users: An ideal solution would protect user personal identifiable information (PII) by complying with regional, national, and local privacy guidelines.

The Aristotle Integrity suite of solutions is the ideal solution for age verification. It includes Integrity ID-Direct for web-based authentication, Integrity Quiz for question-based authentication, Integrity AutoDoc to scan and evaluate government IDs, Integrity Document for expert document analysis, and Integrity Face-to-Face for secure video verification. The Integrity suite provides fast, accurate, and user-protecting age verification capabilities that ensure full compliance with government age restrictions.

If you would like to learn how Aristotle Integrity allows you to comply with age verification laws, click the “FREE DEMO” button in the upper right corner.

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