Last week, Instagram began testing several new ways to verify users’ ages on the app. In the ongoing trial, users attempting to update their age from “under 18” to “18 and over” either have to upload a photo of their ID, have three mutual friends verify their age, or, most notably, record a video selfie for face-scanning.
Face scanning sounds scary, especially after Instagram’s parent company Meta leaked 87 million Americans’ data via the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2015.
Though the tech giant isn’t unaware of users fearing further data violations, as seen in Meta’s recent newsroom post, which announces and describes its partnership with Yoti, a London startup that uses artificial intelligence to estimate a person’s age.
Throughout the post, Meta is keen on repeating itself: No personal data will be saved.
After Meta sends the video selfie to Yoti––which uses technology that cannot recognize a user’s identity, only their age––and verifies their age, the image will be deleted everywhere.
According to Business Insider, several popular social media platforms have partnered with Yoti to confirm the ages of younger users, including French social-networking site Yubo, and China’s Tencent.
“Understanding someone’s age online is a complex, industrywide challenge,” Meta states. “We want to work with others in our industry, and with governments, to set clear standards for age verification online…As an industry, we have to explore novel ways to approach the dilemma of verifying someone’s age when they don’t have an ID.”
But again, Meta wants to assure users choosing to verify their age with an ID upload that their ID “will be stored securely on our servers and is deleted within 30 days.”
Data privacy aside, these new tools are also being implemented after Instagram has faced endless criticism from concerned users, parents, and government officials who have publicly outcried the platform’s tendency to expose minors to harmful content.
Not only does the popular app enhance body image problems specifically among teen girls, but there have been additional issues with pedophilia (according to a Forbes post,) and illicit drug content for teens.
Due to subsequent outrage, Instagram began checking users’ ages in 2019 to prevent those under 13 years of age from creating accounts, then began asking users to provide their birthdays, and then suspended the launch of Instagram Kids, a version of the app it was building for children under 13.
Whether or not the app is “good” for younger people or not, these new age-verification tools sound much more thorough and trustworthy in combating inappropriate content from entering teens’ feeds.
“The expanded effort will significantly enhance Instagram’s capacity for identifying underage users,” stated Andrew Hutchinson of Social Media Today.
Let’s hope he’s right.