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US seeks comment on age-estimation idea to protect children, Yoti requests approval

US seeks comment on age-estimation idea to protect children, Yoti requests approval

Businesses are asking U.S. regulators to approve facial age estimation as a tool for segregating people online by age and, in turn, the government is seeking comment on the idea.

The businesses are digital ID software company Yoti, Epic Games subsidiary SuperAwesome and the Entertainment Software Rating Board. They want the Federal Trade Commission to allow online content and services firms to rebuff children by using software that analyzes facial biometrics with a degree of privacy.

Specifically, the three petitioners want it to be legal for companies to add the age-estimation software to other tools the industry can use under the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

The FTC will accept comment on the request until August 21.

Parent-consent management firm SuperAwesome and Yoti have worked together on the software and began marketing it outside the United States, beginning last year, the companies have said in a letter to the FTC. It’s reportedly 99.97 percent accurate in identifying an adult.

On average, the pair say, a third of people in the European Union and the United Kingdom to date have been blocked by facial age estimation, but have other age-verification options.

Unlike most of those alternatives, people using age estimation do not have to submit IDs or credit account numbers because it doesn’t need to identify faces, said Julie Dawson, Yoti’s chief policy and regulatory officer.

Yoti says its age-estimation app is a neural network trained on “millions of images of diverse human faces with their actual month and year of birth.” The company says it created an “instant” process that stores no face images and that is capable of estimating the ages of “millions” of faces daily.

Age estimation software “is privacy-preserving, accurate and easier to use by more parents” than other alternatives, Dawson told Biometric Update in an email.

“In addition, we have completed over four million age estimations for SuperAwesome outside the U.S. – a sign of its popularity among parents. Where facial age estimation is available as an option for parental consent outside the U.S., more than 70 percent of parents choose it over other methods.”

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