What is age verification?
Age verification is the process of checking the age of an internet user, without necessarily needing to know their identity.
Age assurance is a broader term, which includes age verification as well as methods for age estimation.
In the real world in America and Canada, we regularly apply age limits for a wide range of purposes:
- The purchase of alcohol or a knife
- The use of a children’s playground
- Going to the movies or into a casino
- Buying adult magazines, or age-restricted films and video games
The purpose of age verification is to allow for these same limits to be applied in the digital world.
- Buying alcohol or knives on the internet
- Socialising with other children online
- Viewing age-rated videos or gambling online
- Watching pornography or downloading age-rated games
In our physical lives, age checks are often done just by sight, often without the individual having to do anything at all, although sometimes the law requires evidence to be shown. Age verification aims to replicate this online as far as possible.
In particular, “AV” should usually be possible without being required also to disclose personally identifiable information – when you go into a bar, the bartender doesn’t need to know your name, just to check you are old enough to order a drink. This can be important to protect the privacy of internet users, and is particularly important when those users are children, whom we should generally discourage from disclosing their identity when they are using the worldwide web.
There are a wide range of methods of age verification, and each offers a different level of confidence or accuracy. It is good practice, and often a regulatory requirement, to select methods of age verification that achieve a “level of assurance” which is proportionate to the risk involved.