Age Assurance = Age Verification + Age Estimation
Age Assurance is the broadest term for methods to discern the age or age-range of an individual.
Age Verification is a subset of Age Assurance, providing higher levels of confidence in the age (e.g. 13) or age-range (25+, <17) of a user.
Age Estimation is also a subset of Age Assurance, but providing lower levels of confidence in the age or age-range of a user, often relying on artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.
A UK government official describes Age Verification as “the gold standard of Age Assurance.”
The British Standards Institution (BSI) defined it in 2018 as:
2.1.8 age verification
determination of an individual’s age involving a full identity verification process
(Source: PAS 1296, see below)
This definition, however, has been overtaken by technology, with methods of age verification now available that do not require full identity verification processes to be repeated.
Typically, Age Verification is confirming age or age-range to a sufficient standard to comply with laws and regulations that specify a particular minimum age which must be checked exactly e.g. 21, 18 or 13.
Age Estimation methods will typically only indicate a likely age range with a lower level of statistical certainty than Age Verification.
Examples of lower level age estimation techniques given by the UK Government so far typically include the use of artificial intelligence.
High levels of confidence in age-ranges are still possible using Age Estimation. For example, facial analysis can provide a very high level of confidence that a user is over 18, if the software tests for an age above that e.g. 23. Systems can be audited to demonstrate they would correctly confirm a user was over 18 99.99% of the time, if they only confirmed this when the software’s estimate indicated the user appeared to be over 23. (This is a far higher standard of accuracy than a human estimating the age of a customer in person, so satisfies regulators in most situations.)
What is NOT Age Assurance
Age Assurance does not include very simple methods such as ticking / checking a box to confirm age (“Click to confirm you are over 18“) or entering a date of birth. These data points could, however, be used in conjunction with other methods that would provide additional evidence to confirm age to a required level of confidence.
Who defines these terms?
The British Standards Institution has defined a Publicly Available Specification, BSI PAS 1296:2018 for “Online age checking. Provision and use of online age check services. Code of practice.” This sets out the basis for describing the levels of assurance offered by different methods of age checking.
This standard is the the basis of a new international ISO standard, developed with UK Government sponsorship, which includes explicit reference to Age Assurance. In additon, the IEEE is shortly to publish a standard for Best Practice in Age Verification.
For more information on our work developing standards, see here