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Using face biometrics and age estimation to create a safer internet for children

Using face biometrics and age estimation to create a safer internet for children

Both the International Policy Digest and The Guardian have published articles within the past week on how to use biometric facial analysis and age estimation solutions to create a safer internet for children.

In the former, RMIT University lecturer Binoy Kampmark discussed the excessive ease-of-access of pornography in Australia, and how legislators are moving, albeit slowly, to change the status quo.

Kampmark mentioned a report tabled by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in February 2020.

The document asked the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to collaborate with the Australian Cybersecurity Centre on an online verification system, possibly including facial recognition, designed to limit access to services like online wagering and pornography. 

The Australian government replied to the suggestions included in the report last week.

“The government is committed to protecting young people while safeguarding the privacy and security of people of all ages in an increasingly digital environment,” the document reads.

In order to achieve this goal, the DTA aims to utilize its Trusted Digital Identity Framework.

Age estimation in the UK is technically excellent, but poorly regulated

Some of these points were also mentioned in The Guardian’s article, written by the publication’s UK technology editor Alex Hern.

According to the technology expert, the use of facial analysis and age estimation technologies powered by machine-learning algorithms is already capable of creating a safer internet for children.

However, Hern explained, the British public has been looking at national databases and centralized systems with diffidence for decades now.

This has, slowly but steadily, caused age estimation and other digital ID-related technologies to follow a patchy development path in the country.

Still, some steps have been taken in recent months, with the UK government publishing a new Online Security Bill last May to introduce comprehensive rules to prevent online harm to children, including biometrics-based age checks.

More recently, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Internet Watch Foundation, and the police recently released a new app that enables children to report nude photographs of themselves found online.

In addition, age estimation in the UK is already being used by Yoti as part of a series of trials to allow people to buy alcohol legally in supermarkets. 

The implementation of such technologies online, according to Hern, could eventually reduce, if not eradicate, risks related to children’s access to pornography sites.

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