Increasingly, social media platforms are now applying checks that the age supplied by a customer is accurate, using a wide range of age estimation techniques. For example, the sites may be assessing how old their friends are; whether the topics they show interest in are typical for the age they enter, or whether their friends wish them happy birthday on a particular day.
On this basis, these platforms argue that they already undertake ‘age assurance’ to prevent access to those too young to use their services (typically <13) or restrict access to those not old enough to view certain content or advertising (typically <18). However, these methods are evidently an imperfect science, with studies demonstrating between a quarter and a third of 9-12 year olds have social media accounts. And a broad age assurance approach cannot operate at the margins e.g. distinguishing between someone who is 12½ and someone who is 13½.
Age Estimation simply cannot provide accuracy to a particular age, and certainly not validate an exact date of birth. Not only does this expose the platform to allowing children under 13 to sign up, but it also means they will miscalculate when those users later turn 16, 18 or 21, exposing them to restricted content at a younger age than is legally permitted unless age verification checks are undertaken when users go on to try to access content subject to stricter age-restrictions.