Age Verification vs. Age Gating: How AI Aids Online Minor Safety

Preventing minors from accessing age-restricted products, services or content is a major challenge in today’s digital-first world. While traditional age gates (popups or forms that ask website visitors to enter their date of birth) can deter some minors from visiting restricted websites, they don’t do enough to block access completely.

These types of age verification systems are easily bypassed using a fake qualifying date of birth, enabling minors to access restricted content on alcohol, vapes and online gambling.

A more comprehensive age verification system, such as one with artificial intelligence (AI), prevents minors from finding workarounds. ID verification based on artificial intelligence provides a more secure and foolproof standard of verification than age-gating does.

Let’s explore how AI-powered ID verification is transforming age-gated content.

What is Age-Gated Content?

There are two common types of age-gated content: “soft” age-gating, which involves a simple age affirmation without verification, and “hard” age-gating, which requires users to provide age-related information or undergo a verification process.

Different types of age-gated content include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cannabis
  • Tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and vaping
  • Gambling
  • Age-rated video gaming
  • Streaming platforms
  • Social media
  • Pornography
  • Firearms

An online retailer selling alcoholic beverages may include a soft age-gate popup that asks website visitors if they’re above 21 using “yes” and “no” options. Selecting “yes” grants users immediate access to the website. If the users select “no,” they’re redirected to a message explaining they’re too young to visit the page.

Other platforms that contain sensitive content, such as social media or gaming sites, might use a hard age gate where they require parental consent or age verification data. This ensures minors cannot access inappropriate or potentially harmful products or services.

Aside from protecting minors online, age gates help e-commerce providers build trust with their users by restricting their products from view of minors and showing their commitment to minor safety and state law.

Benefits of an Age Gate

Age gates offer an easy, low friction way for companies to protect minors from viewing age-restricted content or services. Simple popups and checkboxes protect customers’ privacy while enabling the company to remain compliant with minor safety laws and protections.

Age gates also allow sites to collect valuable user demographic data. This information can be used to improve content and marketing campaigns, ensuring valuable resources are focused on target age groups and customers.

Common Disadvantages of Age Gates

Although one of the benefits of age gates is that they’re easy to use, it also means they’re easy to trick. Minors can work around age gates by lying about their age or using a fake account, allowing them to bypass restrictions to access sensitive or adult content.

Because age gates are so easy to circumvent, they don’t comply with regulations like the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act, which requires sellers to verify customer-provided data like date of birth, name and address against database records of people above 21 for every sale.

Unfortunately, this verification process can be intrusive and time-consuming, causing even age-appropriate users to bounce away from websites due to poor user experience. This can lead to lower website engagement and revenue losses.

This is where age verification comes in.

What is Age Verification?

Age verification confirms a users’ age through verifying their ID and cross-referencing third-party databases before granting them access to age-restricted content, products or services. It offers a safer, more secure way to prevent minors from engaging with sensitive or inappropriate materials.

However, the accuracy greatly depends on the verification method used. Strong age verification processes need to ensure the data provided by users is accurate and true to the person attempting to access the site.

What Is an Example of Age Verification?

As mentioned previously, the most simple and common method of verifying a user’s age is to ask for their date of birth. This practice is typical on websites promoting or selling alcoholic beverages or other age-restricted substances. However, this method is easy to trick and bypass.

Another example of age verification is requiring users to upload their photo ID. While this method is stronger than just entering a birth date, minors can get away with using the ID of a parent, sibling or friend.

Adding biometric verification can confirm that the user attempting to access the website is the same person represented in the ID.

Online Age Verification with Jumio

Jumio’s identity and authentication solutions are designed to support e-commerce platforms in building and maintaining safe digital spaces while enabling positive user experiences. Jumio’s AI-powered age verification technology provides consistent, reliable results while simplifying online sales and operations.

How Does Age Verification Technology Work?

Jumio uses machine learning, biometrics and document verification technologies to validate a user’s age and identity in real time.

Here’s how it works:

  • Users take a photo of their ID, and Jumio’s technology extracts its data and validates the ID’s authenticity using an AI-based verification process.
  • Users take a live selfie, which is then compared to their ID photo to make sure they’re the same person.
  • Jumio creates a biometric template of each user that can be used to verify their identity when they return to their account or perform a potentially high-risk task such as changing their password.

The process is friction-free for valid users, allowing for easy logins while also preventing minors from accessing inappropriate content. Jumio’s age and identity verification process also adds extra security, preventing account takeovers and minimizing risk of a minor logging in to their parent’s or guardian’s account.

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Protecting Minors Online

How Identity Verification Makes Age Gates Stronger

Pairing verification software with age gates adds a crucial level of security and oversight that is missing from age gates alone. Age and verification technology presents a scalable, user-friendly option for keeping minors safe online.

Identity verification also strengthens brand reputation and ensures compliance. As industries add regulatory requirements, verification software makes it easier to control online access requirements and deliver a consistent experience across online platforms.

Benefits of Using Age Verification vs. Age Gates

Better identity checkpoints online creates a safer digital environment for minors, a challenge that is only becoming more and more complicated. As more and more adult-only industries move their businesses online, it’s critical to maintain age-restricted barriers without stifling business growth.

The right age verification software can be a benefit — not a burden — for age-restricted e-commerce. Here’s how:

  • Improved brand reputation and loyalty. Stronger age verification processes help prevent reputation-damaging mistakes and solidify your stance as a brand that takes minor safety seriously.
  • Ensured compliance. Software makes it easier to oversee and control age verification across different platforms, channels and geographies, maintaining compliance while growing online.
  • More efficient sales experiences. Age verification software can support sales reps and delivery drivers in quickly confirming a buyer’s age and identity.
  • Reduced fraud. Biometric-based age verification that leverages AI is more efficient in catching fraud and spotting fake IDs, making it easier to stop minors attempting to create illegitimate accounts.

Automate Age Verification with Jumio

You don’t need to choose between better age verification processes and a positive user experience. Advanced online age verification solutions automate verification, offering a fast, friction-free way to accurately verify a user’s true age and identity.

To learn more about how Jumio can help you comply with age restriction laws and protect your business while converting more legitimate customers, contact us today.

Originally published Aug. 30, 2023


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