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Age verification checks can be completed using passports, driving licences, online banking, through credit reference agencies or with a digital ID app on your mobile phone account; innovative new technology can estimate your age from a selfie using artificial intelligence, with the image immediately deleted after the check.

Credit card

Generally, only adults in the UK possess credit cards; an individual can use their card to confirm they are over 18 using standard a payment process. This doesn’t reveal their identity to the verification provider – just the fact that they have been issued a card. All the card schemes’ privacy and security measures apply.

Mobile phone
UK mobile operators issue SIM cards with access to adult content blocked by default, and only remove that block once the user proves their age.  Online age checks can therefore be made by reference to a user’s mobile number.

Facial estimation

By using machine learning techniques, a user’s image is compared to a database of photos of people who’ve volunteered to prove their age, and an estimate within 1-2 years of the real age is generated – typically the test is set a few years above 18, so that the margin for error is so small regulators accept it e.g. under ½% (Other similar biometric techniques are also under development e.g. using voiceprint analysis).

ID documents

Passports, Driving Licences or PASS cards can be used – again the level of check can range from showing the document via a video call, to reading the near-field communication chip embedded in modern forms of ID, and comparing the photo encrypted within that to a live selfie.

Database checks

Electoral roll or credit reference agency records can be checked against data supplied by the user.  Confirming the user is the owner of that record is more complex – but can be done the way credit score services do this, for example, by asking about several recent transactions or other information likely to be known only to the user.

Digital ID apps

If you have set up a digital ID on an app on your smartphone, you will be able to give consent to the app confirming you meet a particular age-restriction.  When acting as an age verification method, only the answer as to whether you qualify based on your age will be shared with the website, as a simple “yes” or “no” – other aspects of your identity such as your name or address, will not be shared unless you give further consent.

Online banking

The creation of a system of “open banking” allows AV providers to get you to log into your bank, just as you do for online banking, and then they can ask the bank to confirm your date of birth.