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Age assurance tech providers wrestle with growing demand, privacy concerns

Age assurance tech providers wrestle with growing demand, privacy concerns

Age assurance is one of the hottest topics in digital identity at the moment, but does not necessarily need to involve digital ID, Age Verification Providers Association Executive Director Iain Corby told Liminal Senior Principal Cameron D’Ambrosi in a new episode of the State of Identity podcast.

Nonetheless, age assurance is seen as a looming challenge for online businesses around the world.

Corby reviewed the “avalanche of legislation” to protect children online which is being passed or considered around the world. Getting it all aligned in such a way that age verification providers and the businesses they serve can comply in different jurisdictions with the same processes and technology is a tall order, he says.

It is a mistake, according to Corby, to think of age “merely as a subset of identity.” Selective disclosure, therefore, is important in any age verification system based on digital ID.

The requirements of age verification do not necessarily require digital ID. For less-stringent age assurance requirements, such as for accessing social media, rather than making a purchase which is illegal if the buyer is underage, involving identity makes even less sense, Corby suggests.

Protecting user privacy and anonymity is part of the business model of adult content providers, he points out, so the role of protecting adults from the privacy risks that can accompany age checks may be played by the market.

Representatives of Yoti and FaceTec emphasize the better privacy protection of age verification through face biometrics to Coda.

The potential risks to data privacy are the reason the Electronic Frontier Foundation has expressed opposition to age verification in general. The AVPA has taken issue with EFF’s position.

And not everyone is convinced that technology will help. An associate professor of internet law at University College London invokes magic twice while telling Coda that technologies like those sold by Yoti and FaceTec are not effective at providing assurance of a user’s age.

Despite these concerns, Canada’s government is planning to mandate age verification for access to sexually explicit material online in a forthcoming online safety bill, reports The Globe and Mail. People with input into the bill say the rules for online access to pornography should mirror those followed by physical retailers.

Details are scant, leaving ample room for speculation about what specifically would be mandated, and how that mandate could be addressed.

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