Instagram testing with AI, and other age-verification tools

Instagram is testing new ways to verify the age of people using its service, including an artificial intelligence tool for facial scanning, having mutual friends check their age or upload an ID card.

But the tools won’t be used, at least not yet, to try to keep kids away from the popular photo and video sharing app. Current testing only involves checking that someone is 18 or older.

The use of artificial intelligence to scan the face, especially on teens, raised some alarm bells Thursday, given the checkered history of Instagram’s parent Meta while protecting users’ privacy. Meta emphasized that the technology used to verify people’s age cannot recognize one’s identity – only age. Once the age verification is complete, Meta said that it and Yoti, the AI ​​contractor it has partnered with to run the scans, will delete the video.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said that starting Thursday, if someone tries to edit their birthday on Instagram from under 18 to 18 or over, they will be asked to verify their age using one of these methods.

Meta continues to face questions about the negative effects of its products, especially Instagram, on some teens.

Children must be at least 13 years old to use Instagram, similar to other social media platforms. But some get around this either by lying about their age or by having a parent do it. Meanwhile, teens between the ages of 13 and 17 impose additional restrictions on their accounts – for example, unrelated adults can’t message them – until they turn 18.

Using uploaded IDs is not new, but the other two options are. To use the face scanning option, the user has to upload a video selfie. This video is then sent to Yoti, a company that uses people’s facial features to estimate their age.

Instagram seller, London-based start-up Yoti, is one of several biometric companies taking advantage of a push in the UK and Europe for stronger age verification technology to prevent children from accessing pornography, dating apps and other adult internet content – not to mention alcohol bottles etc. Items that are prohibited in physical stores.

Yoti works with several supermarkets in the UK on face scanning counters at self-registration counters. It has also started checking the age of new users of the youth-oriented French video chat rooms app Yubo.

Daraj Murray, a senior lecturer at the University of Essex, said that while Instagram is likely to follow through on its promise to delete an applicant’s facial images and not attempt to use them to recognize individual faces, normalizing face scanning is another societal concern. Law School.

“It’s a problem because there are a lot of known biases when trying to identify things like age or gender,” Murray said. “You’re basically looking at a stereotype and people are a lot different.”

A 2019 US agency study found that facial recognition technology often works unevenly based on a person’s race, gender, or age. The study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found higher error rates for younger and older adults. Yoti’s published analysis of its results follows a similar trend, with slightly higher error rates for women and people with darker skin.

The Meta’s face-scanning movement is also a departure from what some of its tech competitors do. Microsoft said on Tuesday it would stop providing its customers with facial analysis tools that “claim to infer” emotional states and identity traits such as age or gender, citing concerns about “profiling, discrimination or unfair denial of services.”