Myth busting age verification

profile picture Yoti 7 min read
People with their estimated ages

When we’re asked to prove our age we typically show an ID document, like a passport or driving licence. In some instances, we may even show a credit card. But doing so results in us revealing a lot of personal information, like our full name, address or passport number. If a business needs to know we’re the right age for something, that should just be a yes or no answer. We shouldn’t need to share any personal information to prove we’re the right age. 

A new chapter is beginning though. One where we can prove our age, without risking our privacy. 

We developed facial age estimation to give everyone a secure and private way to prove their age, without sharing their name or any documents. With any new technology, there can be confusion about how it works, often leading to common myths and misconceptions. We’ll always address these so we can begin to paint a clearer picture of what our facial age estimation technology actually does and why it is the private way to prove your age. 


It is facial recognition

This is not true. The technology uses facial analysis to estimate a person’s age without identifying or recognising any individual. It doesn’t cross-check people against a big database of faces, it simply estimates the age of the image presented to it – the technology never knows or learns the name or identity of a person. This is the difference between facial analysis and facial recognition.


It is the start of a surveillance society

Facial age estimation isn’t recording or observing you, so it is definitely not surveillance. It’s used with your consent and you can choose if and when to use it – that’s really important and something we wholeheartedly believe in. 


We’re sacrificing our privacy for convenience

When you show an ID document to prove your age, you end up revealing a lot of personal information about yourself – your date of birth, full name, passport number, photo and so on. You reveal all of this information every time you prove your age. 

With facial age estimation, you actually share no personal details. You simply look at the camera on a device, the technology captures a selfie and estimates your age, and then the selfie is deleted. Facial age estimation offers both convenience and privacy; one doesn’t come at the cost of the other.


Technology can’t estimate my age from a selfie

It can and it’s something we’re proud of. 

Our technology has been trained to estimate age by looking at facial features in an image. To the technology, the image is simply a pattern of pixels and the pixels are numbers. It’s able to spot patterns in numbers, so it learns ‘this is the pattern a 16 year old would usually have’ or ‘this is the pattern for a 6 year old’, and so on.


Technology can’t guess age better than humans

We believe that when presented with a clear facial image, our technology compares very favourably with human abilities. Humans tend to systematically underestimate the ages of older people, and overestimate the age of those younger, and our ability to estimate accurately tends to decrease as we ourselves get older. Furthermore, when viewing a succession of faces, a person’s judgement tends to be influenced by the preceding faces they have just seen, which is not a problem that affects facial age estimation. Facial age estimation can offer clear advantages – it doesn’t get tired on a long shift and can’t show favour to friends or bias against people.


The selfie used to estimate my age isn’t deleted 

We have no need and no desire to keep the image used, so we don’t. No images are stored, shared or used for any other purpose than estimating the age. 


Big tech is taking over 

In many cases, technology can make our lives easier. However, we think that using technology should always be a personal choice and there should always be an alternative available. 


The technology is bias towards darker skin tones 

We test the accuracy rates across gender and skin tone to make sure it works fairly for everyone. As we show in our whitepaper, the algorithm has no material bias across skin tones. We believe it’s important to be open and transparent with new technology.


It’s collecting photos for a big database

This isn’t true. There is no database of faces because all images are deleted in real time once an age has been estimated. Since no data is saved, there’s no way to create a database. 


It can link my buying or browsing habits to my face or identity 

Again, this is not true. The technology simply estimates your age and that’s it. It never knows your name, identity or your buying or browsing habits. It is not recording what you are buying or which website you are on, it just checks your age. 


This is just a way to gather facial biometric data

We are never doing this. The technology estimates your age from a selfie and then deletes that image. Nothing is saved or stored; you just pass an age check, without sharing any personal data. 


It won’t be effective at protecting underage users

Facial age estimation is being used by businesses around the world to protect underage users and create age appropriate experiences. It can be used to stop underage access, provide age-appropriate content moderation and deter grooming. 

Social network Yubo introduced our facial age estimation technology to accurately check the age of its users. The new age verification system prevents users from adopting a false age and gaining access to Yubo, reducing the risk of child abuse and other similar acts. Age verification technology also strengthens age-gating on Yubo, which separates users into different communities based on age to limit interaction betweens teens and adults. This also reduces the presence of bots and fake profiles on the platform.


Someone could hold up a photo of an older person 

We’ve developed our own anti-spoofing technology to prevent fake images being used for facial age estimation. Our passive liveness technology, which is a separate process to facial age estimation, analyses the depth of an image to make sure it’s a real person and not a photograph, video or bot.


Children will find still find a way to access age restricted content

Facial age estimation is being used by a number of companies to prevent underage access. This is a step in the right direction to protecting children, and while no system is perfect, this is an improvement on no age verification or a tick box, which is easily bypassed by children. 


There’s no way to prove my age without sharing an ID document or credit card

We developed facial age estimation to give everyone a secure and private way to prove their age, without sharing their name, personal information, an ID document or a credit card. 

There is a way to prove your age without sharing personal information. These solutions do exist.

If you have any other questions about our facial age estimation, then please do get in touch