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Do not keep biometric data from age verification checks, UK tech firms warned

Do not keep biometric data from age verification checks, UK tech firms warned

The debate over age verification techniques for accessing online content has intensified as the developer of the first statutory online children’s protection code says the government must not allow tech companies to use verification processes to harvest children’s biometric data, reports The Telegraph.

UK ministers are considering allowing biometric age assurance techniques such as biometrics-based face and voice analysis as well as conventional checks such as copies of passport or driving license. Baroness Beeban Kidron, who led the first statutory online children’s protection code, said the new harm protection legislation must mandate that tech companies delete any biometric or biographic data they use in the alternative age verification processes.

Baroness Kidron, a crossbench peer and chair of children’s charity 5Right Foundation, has introduced a private members’ bill proposing minimum standards for age verification. The baroness previously introduced a private members’ bill to amend the Data Protection Act 2018 which led to the world-first Age Appropriate Design Code.

Robin Tombs, co-founder and CEO of biometric age verification company Yoti took to LinkedIn to support Baroness Kidron’s stance and private members’ bill on the issue.

“Yoti has performed over 550m privacy preserving age estimations for businesses around the world over the last 2.5 years; every image has been estimated & discarded, no images are stored to disk,” writes Tombs who goes on to mention that the firm has a UK patent pending for an age estimation approach which combines voice and face analysis, even though “so far all of our research shows face is currently most accurate and voice alone is materially less accurate. Face and voice may sometimes improve results, sometimes not.”

He suggests more suppliers of other systems such as typing and language analysis, hand analysis and behavioral biometrics may enter the market.

Tombs and a colleague have been keeping up pressure on the government as delays continue for implementing age verification for online pornography as part to the Digital Economy Act 2017. Software solutions for age verification for adult sites had been due to come into effect in May 2019.

Yoti has previously contested the opinion of the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office on the use of biometric age verification and pointed out that Yoti’s system does not keep any of the data.

Yoti has this month won funding in the form of a UK government award in the Safety Tech Challenge Fund for technology to detect explicit content before it is sent.

The London-based firm has also had its software approved by Germany’s Commission for the Protection of Minors for age-based access control for online services.

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