Selfie biometrics could strengthen age verification but businesses fear for profit

Selfie biometrics could strengthen age verification but businesses fear for profit

More than half of adult-oriented sites in age-restricted industries in the UK suspect minors have used or purchased their products or services, even though 67 percent say it is their responsibility to deploy better age identification methods, new research from Jumio says.

Age-restricted content includes social media platforms, dating sites, online alcohol, tobacco, and vaping stores, gambling/gaming sites, pornography and financial services. Ofcom, UK’s communications regulator, is working on a plan to force businesses to take adequate measures to verify online identity and prevent minors from accessing their services.

A possible reason for the high underage access may be the use of anonymous forms of age verification still used by 46 percent of businesses to ensure they maintain a good online conversion rate. However, when asked, 95 percent agreed it was important to prevent minors from purchasing their products or services. Self-assessment forms (26 percent), document verification (20 percent) and credit check report (10 percent) are some of the methods used to verify age.

Companies selling alcohol and fireworks have better age verification methods than companies selling pornography, as it is believed the latter would cause less harm. Businesses in highly regulated industries such as online gaming and financial services must implement thorough age and identity verification checks to be compliant with KYC regulations.

Almost half of respondents (45 percent) said using biometrics to authenticate a selfie with a government-issued ID could be the most effective age-verification solution, even though it might affect conversion rates or negatively impact customer experience. However, 26 percent depend on self-reported age verification and only 32 percent rely on the government-issued ID and selfie method.

Worried about generating a poor user experience for valid customers which would, in turn, affect revenue, 46 percent of tech decision makers would not implement a stronger age verification method.

“It is completely appropriate to hold any organization that profits from selling age-restricted products and services accountable for the potential harms caused by their platform,” said Robert Prigge, Jumio CEO, in a prepared statement. “That said, Ofcom needs to take a risk-based approach to age verification, depending on the industry and the likely harm of onboarding a bad actor. That is, the greater the likelihood of social harm, the greater the need for more robust forms of non-anonymous methods of age verification. With many minors at home in the UK right now due to pandemic lockdown measures and spending more time online, it is vital that organizations are looking to the most appropriate methods of age verification to truly prevent harm.”

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