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Developing age estimation technology to tackle grooming online

Developing age estimation technology to tackle grooming online

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, Public.io, 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.

4 min read
Helping to protect kids this Safer Internet Day and beyond

Helping to protect kids this Safer Internet Day and beyond

Ahead of the Age Appropriate Design Code, many companies are looking at how to provide age-appropriate services, messaging, content and, crucially for parents, how to deter grooming.  We are working in the ICO Sandbox with partners including child-content moderation SaaS GoBubble (GoBubbleWrap), to further develop our privacy-preserving age estimation technology so that it can accurately estimate the age of children under 13. This vital ICO Sandbox partnership will offer child-centric content moderation with global scalability on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis. This will include privacy information and accessible parental consent mechanisms, including the option to use age estimation for parental consent.   ‘Share to protect’ with Yoti’s privacy preserving age estimation Our age estimation technology can currently estimate the age of 13-25 year olds within 1.5 years of accuracy. But obtaining verified training data for under 13s is hard due to legal barriers, making it tricky to ensure solutions work for children. The ICO is working with Yoti to tackle this challenge and with your help, we can expand our technology to provide leading accuracy and protect 7-12 year olds.  Parents can opt in to support the development of our age estimation by sharing a photo of their child to build a consented data set. We’re doing this to support content platforms in meeting regulatory requirements and protect children from unwanted intrusions, inappropriate content and minimise the risk of grooming.   More about the tech Yoti age estimation was built to give everyone a secure and private way of proving their age, without revealing any other personal information. All a person needs to do is look into the camera, have their face scanned and their age will be estimated in seconds.  The technology is based on a technique known as a neural network, which Yoti has trained to estimate ages using machine-learning AI. We input verified data, including an individual’s photo, month and year of birth, and the system keeps on learning and improving.   Is this facial recognition? No, it does not match faces. The technology simply estimates an age from a face without personal details. There’s no image or data held after the check.    Helping parents and children understand AI We know that AI technology can be hard to understand, which is why we’re launching our Education Campaign and video competition. Based on the Unicef policy guidance on AI for children, we hope our competition will teach young people about: How age estimation is built, including training, tagging, testing. The ethical considerations, including dataset consent, diversity, transparency and facial recognition versus just analysing an image. Where the technology can help keep young people safe. Lorin LaFave, Founder of the Breck Foundation, strives to educate the digital generation to keep safe online as they play virtual or in real life: “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 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 Share to protect campaign. We work with the victims of online abuse and know the damage caused to children. This initiative by Yoti needs to receive the full support of parents wherever they may live in the world.” John Carr, Online Safety Expert, Secretary of the UK Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety and member of the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety: “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.” Julie Dawson, Director of Regulatory & Policy at Yoti: “People share photos of their children all the time; we’d encourage them to share a photo to help protect children online. We are delighted to be working with edtech and child safety organisations to provide education materials and we hope to inspire parents to share a photo to improve age estimation for the under 13 age group.”

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Our CEO Robin Tombs is a Meaningful Business 100 Leader for 2020

Our CEO Robin Tombs is a Meaningful Business 100 Leader for 2020

We’re honoured to see our CEO Robin Tombs be recognised as a Meaningful Business 100 Leader for 2020. This award recognises outstanding business leaders across the world who are combining profit and purpose to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  One of the SDGs is to ‘provide legal identity to all’. Since Yoti was founded in 2014, we’ve been fully committed to the concept of digital identity for all. Our commercial activities are centred around online tools and apps that allow people to prove who they are, whilst our social purpose activities support the building of solutions for those without mobile devices or internet access in less developed countries.  This year has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging yet. But it has also seen us make some great achievements that we are incredibly proud of. We’ve partnered with GeneMe to develop a rapid COVID-19 testing system that delivers results to your phone in 30 minutes. We’ve helped organisations such as the NHS and Volunteer Edinburgh remotely issue digital ID cards during the pandemic. We’ve gifted our identity technology to volunteering platforms to ensure they continue to safeguard their users during the pandemic and we’ve released a paper on social purpose which outlined our own record on diversity and inclusion in response to the recent demonstrations by Black Lives Matter.  After such a monumental year, we’re delighted to see our CEO Robin take his well-earned place in the top 100 Meaningful Business leaders from 34 countries. He joins corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs and sustainability leaders that are helping to achieve sustainable development. Commenting on the MB100, Tom Lytton-Dickie, Founder and CEO, Meaningful Business said, “We are delighted to recognise Robin Tombs as part of the Meaningful Business 100 for 2020. In what has been a challenging year for everyone, the MB100 provides an inspiring reminder of the brilliant work being done around the world to solve the biggest issues we are facing today.” In Robin’s own words, “Hats off to all of them.” “Sometimes rightly businesses get a bad name for not doing good in the pursuit of short term profit. But there are also times when businesses demonstrate they can be forces for good. Teams in businesses can be highly motivated to deliver social purpose alongside sustainable commercial success. Thankfully, these twin goals are not mutually exclusive.”

2 min read
United for a safer internet with OSTIA

United for a safer internet with OSTIA

We’re honoured to be one of the founding members of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA), a new UK industry body dedicated to tackling online safety.  The group brings together advisory bodies and tech companies in a shared goal of making the internet safer and hopes to provide a voice of hope by offering solutions to address key issues in a complex debate so often focused on what can’t be done. With support from the National Crime Agency, GCHQ, the Home Office, NSPCC, the group will serve as a forum for companies working on potential solutions and create collective influence on policy, regulation and broader support for the sector.  Our Scotland Lead, Gordon Scobbie, sits on the board on behalf of Yoti and has long been committed to safeguarding and online safety issues. After operating at every level in UK policing from constable to chief officer, he saw first-hand the scale of online grooming and sexual abuse. He now steers our work with the Scottish Improvement Service and is Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees on the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF).  We caught up with Gordon to hear about what this means for the future of online safety.    How did OSTIA come about?   The group came out of a 2019 roundtable event that explored online harms, run by Edinburgh-based security firm Cyan Forensics and public sector startup body Public, and chaired by Joanna Shields.  We collectively realised that we had broad agreement between those attending the roundtable that there was a need for smaller technology companies involved in online safety to have a louder voice and the best way to achieve this would be to act collaboratively and collectively.  Several members of this initial roundtable session continued this work and OSTIA was born, being launched in March 2020.   What does OSTIA hope to achieve?  We are committed to making the internet a safer place to be and believe that the tech industry has a lot to offer right now to get us closer to that goal. The UK is a world leader when it comes to innovative technology in this space, and with many small, agile companies at the forefront. Through our collective voice, we want to make sure solutions are known and deployed to help keep people safe online. Our involvement with DCMS has been really helpful in raising awareness of the availability of innovative safety tech and through engagement with regulators such as OFCOM. We’re raising greater awareness in this area of what we are currently capable of implementing, and where this is (and is not) being actively deployed. What perspective or expertise do you add to the group?   My background spans 33 years in the UK police force, and in the later stages of my career, I was the National Chief Police Lead for social media and online engagement. I’ve spent the last 8 years in the commercial world, working for technology companies spanning global corporations to smaller start ups. I have a solid understanding of how technology can help keep people safe online and know firsthand the ways it could be used to support law enforcement in the difficult job they have.   What role can Yoti play?    We are a company that puts privacy, consent and data security at the heart of everything we do and we believe technology holds the key to protecting young and vulnerable online. Our digital identity app and age estimation technology are incredible tools that are already being used to keep communities safe on social media, dating sites and sharing economy platforms. Through OSTIA, we hope to further the discussion around online safety with our knowledge in the space and provide practical solutions that can be put into place today to mitigate some of the harms which exist online. Alongside other industry leaders and experts, we’re excited to provide answers to the often unanswered question of what can we do to protect people online. In many cases, the technology has been built. It’s time to use it.

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Reinforcing our commitment to protecting children from online harms by joining the Point de Contact association

Reinforcing our commitment to protecting children from online harms by joining the Point de Contact association

We are delighted to announce we have been accepted into the Point de Contact association to help the fight against abuse and inappropriate online content. Point de Contact was created in 1998 to contribute to the fight against illegal content on the internet and facilitate the reporting of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Point de Contact is also a member of the French Monitoring Committee for protecting children from online pornography and has been supported by successive European Commission programs. Point de Contact is a founding member of INHOPE – the International Association of Internet Hotlines which unites over 40 countries worldwide in fighting child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Point de Contact coordinated the White Paper entitled Child sexual abuse material and online terrorist propaganda | Tackling illegal content and ensuring staff welfare. The French reporting hotline has also been adapting the reporting of suspected illegal content to new digital uses and younger generations, with a mobile app (iOS, Android) and “next gen” reporting add-ons, available across browsers.  At Yoti, we already provides age checking services to a broad range of online businesses and organisations including social networks Yubo and GoBubble, non-profit organisations such as NSPCC Childline, and age-restricted goods providers like Jägermeister. We trust that joining the Point de Contact brings our robust age checks to more platforms and businesses with a shared interest in protecting children online. Point de Contact’s President Jean-Christophe Le Toquin said “We are thrilled to have Yoti on board as a new member. Safety by design and age verification tools are part of the solution to advance child online protection. The impact equation for us is always innovation for better protection.” Robin Tombs, CEO of Yoti said “We’re delighted to join Point de Contact and bring our ready-made solutions to members, platforms and their users. We’re a global leader in the innovative use of age checking technology – having done over 330 million age checks in the last 18 months, helping online providers deliver age-appropriate content and services while promoting privacy and boost security.” Yoti is offering our ID and age verification through the free Yoti app, as well as AI-powered age estimation technology, Yoti Age Scan. Yoti helps individuals and organisations know who they’re dealing with and meets internationally recognised standards and accreditations including; the UK’s BBFC, Germany’s FSM, PAS (Publicly Available PAS 1296:2018 Age Checking), as well SOC2 for secure data management. 

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Successfully completing HIPAA Compliance Readiness Assessment

Successfully completing HIPAA Compliance Readiness Assessment

We are delighted to confirm we have received a HIPAA compliance readiness report from an independent auditor.  This gives us and our clients comfort that Yoti fulfils all requirements in the HIPAA Security Rules and the Privacy Rules. As Yoti has been built from day one with security and privacy at its core, we only needed to explain our architecture and control environment to our independent assessors, Corporate Prime Solutions. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was created to modernise the flow of healthcare information, and set out how personally identifiable information is maintained. Our HIPAA compliance, combined with our ISO27001 and SOC2 (type 2) compliance, mean organisations and consumers can be sure our data controls and protections are legitimate.

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