The online world is rife with dangers for society’s youth. Whether it’s from unwanted purchases, negative effects on a child’s mental health, child identity theft, or mature images, online businesses have a duty to their consumers to protect those who are not capable to contend with certain online content or not legally not allowed to access mature content.
“The internet was created by adults, for adults,” asserts head of Australia’s Office of the eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant. She continues by claiming “…one of the key challenges for us is to come up with a system that proves a child is a child behind the keyboard.” As such, online retailers need more robust age verification for their sites to prove who is accessing their sites are of age to do so.
Protecting Our Children
The recent Senate hearings about Facebook’s technology and effects on youth have many questioning the current measures in place aimed at protecting children online. Some wonder if social media access should be limited to those of certain ages. Former product manager on Facebook’s civil integrity team and now whistleblower Frances Haugen told Senate “The choices being made inside Facebook are disastrous for our children…”. This is supported by an internal Facebook report noting the harm its social media causes including to the mental health of teens.
Traditionally, parents have been in charge of monitoring and policing what their children access and consume online. However, with the increased accessibility and use of the internet, it’s not realistic that parents can monitor their children 100 percent of the time. Online businesses have a responsibility to lock their websites from under-age users to assist with this oversight.
Furthermore, online businesses must address their legal responsibility of weeding out under-age customers in order to avoid legal troubles. Companies have recognized that age verification not only protects children and minors from accessing age-sensitive products and services, but it also protects the company from liability and ensures compliance with regulatory bodies.
This age verification assists businesses in meeting “Know Your Customer" (KYC) requirements. KYC is the process by which companies verify the identity of their clients, often using information such as age, before granting access to the website's products and/or services.
Age verification is legally required in many industries, including some retail, financial services, banking, real estate, travel, insurance, and other online marketplaces. Governments and regulators require specific industries, such as online gambling and sports betting, to implement age verification on their websites in order to prevent minors from accessing their services. Online dating sites and adult websites need age verification in order to prevent children from using their platforms.
The Need for More Robust Age Verification
The goal of age verification systems is to assist businesses and online merchants to control and restrict access and purchasing ability to under-aged users. This is usually in the form of a simple pop-up age gate before entering the website. These pop-ups may request a customer's date of birth or simply ask “yes or no” if the user is of legal age to engage in the website’s material. But as former senior marketing manager for Surly Brewing Holly Manthei stated, “the age gate is maybe the most useless thing on the internet.”
Most online businesses and merchants have long struggled to find a reliable age-verification solution that provides strict enough verification accountability to effectively prevent children from gaining access to the site while also providing intended users with a noninvasive and friendly user experience. It can be difficult to strike a balance, but it has become absolutely necessary to implement more comprehensive age verification methods beyond simple age gates. An example of a more comprehensive method is Konfirmi which has four simple yet powerful age verification steps:
Step One: Collect
The website displays an age verification pop-up or page, requiring users to submit and undergo real-time ID verification. A government-issued ID, such as a driver's license, passport, or ID card, is then captured using a webcam connected to a computer, laptop, or smartphone. The user is then instructed to take a live selfie with the camera in order to verify the ID and ensure that the person is the same as in the ID presented.
Step Two: Amass and Extract
The submitted data is then automatically gathered and extracted, and then processed by the Konfirmi verification system.
Step Three: Verify
The submitted ID and the live selfie are then authenticated and compared against multiple consumer databases to ensure that they match existing records and determine whether the user is of legal age to enter or create an account on the website.
Step 4: Decision
The system comes to a decision as to if the user is eligible for access after the data has been checked and automatically compared against several databases.
Advantages of Comprehensive Age Verification – Businesses
More robust age verification such as Konfirmi assists businesses in automating the age verification process for greater efficiency while also reducing the risk of liability and fraud. This is accomplished by securely verifying the age and identity of users from various countries around the world without invading their privacy by using multiple commercial databases with over a billion unique records.
The creation of fake accounts by under-aged users becomes exponentially more difficult because the verification process checks and verifies the authenticity of an individual's ID. This adds to the deterrence of fraud even beyond age verification.
Furthermore, governments and municipalities are making greater efforts to compel online merchants and businesses to implement stricter age verification measures in order to prevent children from gaining access to sensitive materials such as adult websites and controlled products. When used in conjunction with other types of verification, age verification can help ensure that businesses comply with these regulatory and government laws when handling sensitive customer information or selling age-restricted services such as gambling, online dating, and adult sites.
Businesses that ensure that their products and services reach the right customers can build better relationships with the community and improve their brand image by providing solutions to society's problems.
Advantages of Comprehensive Age Verification – Customers
“Oh, hell no,” Jennifer Bryant, mother of four-year-old Bryant, said when 918 SpongeBob SquarePants popsicles totaling $2,618.85 arrived. Unbeknownst to her, Bryant ordered three 70-pound boxes packed with popsicles. Would this situation have turned out differently if Amazon required age verification prior to purchase?
In today's globally connected world, anyone with an internet connection and a smartphone can easily access the services of millions of websites or purchase any product from a plethora of online stores and merchants. Global communities and governments have urged businesses to accept responsibility for providing safeguards to prevent children from accessing sensitive content on their websites.
Age verification protects children from negative influences such as watching violent or adult-rated movies. It also protects them from being manipulated and abused, particularly on social media and online dating sites.
Furthermore, age verification prevents children and minors from inadvertently using their parents' credit cards without their parents' permission, thereby protecting both the business and the parents from potential liability and risk.
The time has come for online retailers to implement more powerful age verification. This is not only beneficial for children but to protect one’s business against negative publicity and legislation- existing and future. If businesses start now, they will be ahead of the curve and attract positive customer relations.
Konfirmi offers this dependable and secure age verification service that is simple to integrate into websites and other online assets. Konfirmi also offers flexible and scalable pricing models that are extremely cost-effective, particularly for small businesses. With Konfirmi, businesses can avoid the risk of one-question age gate pop-ups, and instead, protect their online businesses with effective yet noninvasive verification programs…and protect children.