Developing age estimation technology to tackle grooming online

profile picture Julie Dawson 4 min read

Last month, Yoti Guardian Gavin Starks chaired our third stakeholder roundtable on the next proposed stage of the development of our age estimation technology.  

We brought together fifty five guests from seven countries, including representatives from 5rights, Apps for Good, Be In Touch South Africa, Breck Foundation, Caribou Digital, CyberSafeIreland, Digital Policy Alliance, FSM Germany – Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Diensteanbieter, GoBubble, IEEE, Interactive Software Federation of Europe, International Committee of the Red Cross, Internet Commission, Internet Watch Foundation, Irish Data Protection Commission, Keele University, KJM German Federal Agency for the Protection of Minors, London School of Economics, Marie Collins Foundation, Media Monitoring Africa, NSPCC, Obidos Consulting, OFCOM, PA Consulting, Parent Zone, Point de Contact France,, Sprite+, techUK, Thai Government, The Football Association, UK Government Cabinet Office, UK Government Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, UK Information Commissioner’s Office, UKCCIS, UNESCO, War Child, WePROTECT.


Roundtables on our age estimation technology

We ran our first roundtable ahead of launching age estimation two years ago.

The second roundtable introduced the concept of extending our age estimation to a younger demographic. That is now a reality with our age estimation accurate to within approximately ±1.5 years for the 13-25 age group, as you can read in our latest age estimation white paper

During the third roundtable we recapped the journey to date and outlined the current work on age estimation and in particular the two campaigns from our ICO Sandbox work that we launched on Safer Internet Day, 9th Feb, 2021.


Safer Internet Day 2021 

We’re currently working in the ICO Sandbox with partners including GoBubble child-content moderation SaaS (GoBubbleWrap) and British Esports to extend the range to be able to estimate ages under 13. As part of this work, we have launched two campaigns:


1. Education campaign and video competition 

Based on the Unicef policy guidance on AI for children, this competition seeks to help young people understand:

  • How age estimation is built, including training, tagging, testing.
  • The ethical considerations, including dataset consent, diversity, transparency, no recognition just analysing an image – when it estimates age)
  • Where the technology can help keep young people safe.

Education materials we have developed include:

  • Education Videos explaining AI age estimation under the hood
  • Interactive Game – pit yourself against the computer
  • Video to show what anti-spoofing means
  • Interactive demo – to try it out – have your age estimated 
  • Videos of age estimation in use


2. #Share2Protect 

In parallel via the #share2 protect campaign, we’re offering an opt-in way for parents and young people to support the development of the age estimation by sharing a photo to build a consented data set. 

The extended AI age estimation approach will support content platforms to meet regulatory requirements, such as the Age Appropriate Design Code, to protect children from unwanted intrusions, inappropriate content and minimise the risk of grooming.

We give the final word to those who are supporting this vitally important work.


Supported by

Our campaign is supported by many key figures in the child online protection space.

Lorin LaFave, Founder Breck Foundation: “Keeping children safer online is a collective priority for all of us, from the developing tech solutions to the education of children, parents and schools. By parents safely sharing their children’s photos today for Yoti to create better age verification techniques, children will have a safer and healthier online future.”

Tink Palmer, MBE CEO Marie Collins Foundation: “The Marie Collins Foundation fully endorses the #share2protect campaign. We work with the victims of online abuse and know the harm caused to children and young people. This initiative by Yoti needs to receive the full support of parents wherever they live in the world.”

John Carr, Online Safety Expert: “We need tech solutions which enable people of all ages to be able to prove their age safely, not just people with ID documents. This work through the ICO Sandbox could support many platforms to meet their obligations.”

If you’d like to support the consented development of age estimation, please head to the support age estimation website for more information or get in touch to hear more.