Age assurance

Global retail report: Exploring how facial age estimation improves the self-checkout

Nearly four years ago we integrated our facial age estimation technology into retail self-checkouts. Since then, it has been trialled by retailers in the US and Estonia, with further pilots taking place in Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. And last year UK supermarkets – including Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Co-op – tested the technology as part of a Home Office regulatory sandbox. The aim of the sandbox was to trial digital age verification for the sale of alcohol under the UK Licensing Act (2003).  Detailed reports from the Home Office and the supermarkets who participated in the sandbox are due to be published. But in the interests of transparency, we have shared our own insights from both the Home Office trials and our wider learnings of how our technology works in a retail setting. We hope this helps to answer common questions and dispel misconceptions, and build trust and understanding in this new approach to age verification, which can make the lives of retail staff easier and improve compliance rates.    Key takeaways from the report: Customers like the experience Our technology gives customers a more private way to prove their age  Digital age verification has the potential to improve retail staff safety and reduce friction between staff and customers  Retail staff have more time to focus on other tasks, including spotting proxy sales and ‘walkaways’  Our technology is inclusive for those who do not own or have access to an ID document  Lighting conditions and environmental factors impact success rates Anti-spoofing is key to the success of digital age verification     A note from our CEO “Our age verification technology can help make retail stores safer and give customers privacy-preserving ways to prove their age, without needing to show physical ID to staff. During the Home Office trials, I was particularly happy to see that some of the self-checkouts could successfully estimate over 90% of shoppers at the first attempt. This will be a game changer for retailers both here in the UK and abroad, who can use our technology to improve compliance rates and enhance the checkout experience for shoppers” – Robin Tombs, CEO of Yoti. Download the retail report 

2 min read
People with their estimated ages

On Facial Age Estimation, improvements and updates

We continue to invest in improving the accuracy of our world-leading facial age estimation and we will soon be releasing a new ‘Jan 2023’ model with improved accuracy across all skin tones and gender for those aged 6-70. At Yoti we constantly strive to improve all our services given our commitment to tech for good, and given the growing market importance of these services and increasing regulatory engagement. For example, coming soon we’ll be introducing multiple, concurrent age estimation models, which will help improve accuracy even further, whilst still completing a check within seconds.  We will also continue to update our Yoti Age Estimation white paper, now 4 years old this month, in which we transparently publish our accuracy across age, gender and skin tones by year between ages 6 and 70. We expect to publish the updated white paper in the next couple of weeks but importantly, we can share today our Jan 2023 model further improves our accuracy and further reduces bias. Across all age ranges, gender and skin tones we are seeing a 5.1% increase in accuracy, reducing the weighted average MAE for 6 to 70 year olds from 3.0 to 2.8 years. As you can see below for this model we have been focussing on reducing the discrepancy between light skintones (tone 1) and darker skin tones (tone 3) We recognise our work is not finished in this regard. Table shows mean average error (MAE) for age range 6-70 by gender and skin tone, and the percentage improvement from our May 2022 model to our January 2023 model. So, well done for marking your own homework, you might say! But we are happy to report our May 2022 white paper has been independently verified as to the measurement methodology and accuracy of our results. On the request of one of our clients, the ACCS undertook an independent evaluation of our May 2022 white paper and had this to say: “The training, testing and results reporting presented in the whitepaper have been independently validated by ACCS, who have certified that Yoti have deployed appropriate methodologies to analyse the performance of their Age Estimation algorithm, including ensuring appropriate separation of machine learning training data, testing data and validation data.” In addition to this, we are also happy to announce that we have been invited to participate in a workshop on ICO commissioned research on the measurement of age assurance on Thursday 19th January, in London organised by ACCS and AVPA.  Follow us on LinkedIn to stay abreast of Yoti news or get in touch to find out more. 

3 min read
Woman using Yoti's age estimation solution at the self checkout in a supermarket

Yoti digital age verification trialled at supermarkets

Last year, UK supermarkets – including Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and The Co-op – trialled our digital age verification at self-checkouts in a scheme run by the Home Office. During the trial, shoppers in participating stores could try two new ways to prove their age: Facial age estimation technology: shoppers purchasing alcohol looked at a camera on the self checkout and age estimation technology estimated their age. A privacy-preserving solution, it didn’t require any personal details or ID documents, and all images were instantly deleted once someone received their estimated age. If the system detected they looked younger than the set age threshold, customers were asked to use an alternative method. Digital ID app: shoppers could use the free Yoti or Post Office EasyID app to scan a QR code on the checkout screen and share a verified age attribute.  Customers who did not wish to use digital age verification had the option to ask a staff member to come and approve them and if required show their ID to a colleague instead.  We’re delighted to share some key takeaways from the trials: Participating supermarkets confirmed they support digital age verification, and would welcome legislative change in this area. There were no reported sales of underage customers purchasing age restricted items when using our age verification technology. Informed consent was gathered from all customers, who were given a choice whether to use the technology or present an ID document to a member of staff. The majority of shoppers who used Yoti digital proof of age solutions liked the technology and would use it again, once available. Digital age verification technology provided an opportunity to reduce the number of physical age interventions, giving retail staff more time to monitor other activities, including spotting proxy sales. Yoti facial age estimation is more accurate than humans which reduces the risks of incorrectly estimating the age of shoppers. Yoti facial age estimation is more inclusive because anyone who looks over the required age threshold does not need to carry around a physical ID to prove their age. Digital age verification supports the ability for retailers to achieve the Licensing Objectives Alongside these trials, Aldi has been successfully trialling Yoti facial age estimation on its mobile shopper app, and Regal Gaming technologies are trialling our technology in their gaming machines to help staff create safer gambling experiences.  Our facial age estimation is now being used globally by a wide range of social, gaming, ecommerce, adult, gaming and retail organisations. To date, we have completed over 570 million age checks using our privacy-preserving technology, and have the ability to scale to tens of millions of age checks every day.   Since the 2022 supermarket trials, we have continued to invest in our facial age estimation technology and have upgraded our online and offline terminal facial age estimation service to enable automatic face capture. This optimises the image taken of the shopper to further improve success rates. We transparently publish our accuracy rates across age, gender and skin tone in our whitepaper.  Next steps Currently, the law requires a person to observe and approve the sale of age restricted items. The Home Office is due to publish full reports with the outcomes of the supermarket trials, and whether digital age verification will become an accepted verification method for the sale of age restricted goods.  With 70% of people saying they would use facial age estimation when buying age restricted goods at self checkout, we believe shoppers and retailers are ready to embrace this new technology.  We look forward to reading the full outcome of the trials. To learn more, please get in touch.

4 min read
Child looking at phone

Privacy-preserving facial age estimation

As a parent, one wants young people to thrive and access the best of the online world. But the ease with which very young people can stumble across or access restricted, inappropriate or explicit content concerns me greatly.  In my role as Chief Regulatory and Policy Officer, I engage with regulators, businesses, politicians, charities and parents every day. I hear and read stories of young people who have been negatively impacted by what they have seen and experienced online; and see that whilst for many there are positive experiences, it is the vulnerable who are the hardest hit. It’s time for a reset to address how best to support all young people online. Thanks to the introduction of the Children’s Code here in the UK and the recently passed Louisiana Age Verification law and California’s Age Appropriate Design Code Act, we are starting to see positive changes. Along with the much anticipated Online Safety Bill, regulators and companies are now seriously looking at the role age assurance can play in providing children and young people with safer, more positive and age-appropriate experiences.  However, some people still think or try to assert that suitable privacy-preserving age assurance methods do not exist. There are some who think the only way to effectively prove our age online is to use an ID document or credit card. This is a truly outdated viewpoint, and simply isn’t true.  The people making these statements are stuck in the past. Of course someone might still choose to use an ID document, mobile phone number or a credit card to prove their age online. But not everyone has access to these approaches, and there’s a lot of people who do not feel comfortable sharing this information online.  There are now certified privacy-preserving methods which do not require individuals to share personal details like their name, address or passport number. Facial age estimation is one such method, built to give everyone a secure way to prove their age without sharing their name or ID document. It accurately estimates someone’s age from a selfie, and most importantly, as soon as their age has been estimated the image is permanently deleted. There is no central database of images, it is not facial recognition and we are not sacrificing our privacy for convenience.  Facial age estimation is being used globally at scale by a wide range of social, gaming, ecommerce, adult, gaming and retail organisations. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook Dating, Yubo and OnlyFans are using facial age estimation to help create age-appropriate experiences. The technology can handle tens of millions of age checks every day, and if required, we can double, triple or even quadruple this.  Privacy-preserving facial age estimation is proving to be popular with individuals too. When presented with a choice of using an ID document or facial age estimation to verify their age on Instagram, 81% are choosing to use our technology.  Once the age of an individual has been assessed, a platform can act in the best interests of that child or adult. In practical terms that could be to turn off notifications late at night, not allow geolocation tracking, turn off age inappropriate advertising or profiling, provide support which is age appropriate. It becomes possible to prevent children from being contacted by over 18s, or from seeing explicit, inappropriate content.  Facial age estimation can play an important role in protecting young people and improving online safety – and it’s already being used everyday to help create age-appropriate experiences. But this is just the beginning. There’s still a long way to go but as a parent, it’s reassuring to know that the technology does exist to protect young people online. I’m very proud to be working for a company that has developed technology which can have such a positive impact in creating a safer digital world. 

4 min read

How Yubo became the first major social media platform to age-verify 100% of its users

“Yubo’s rapid, full-scale deployment of sophisticated age-verification technology with Yoti is just the latest evidence of its unwavering commitment to online safety innovation.”  Annie Mullins OBE Yubo Independent Safety Advisor Yubo is a live social discovery app making it easy for Gen Z to expand their social circles and hang out online with new friends from around the world. We helped them: Age-verify all users during the onboarding process. Limit interaction between teens and adults. Detect bots and fake profiles.   Solution: Facial Age Estimation Industry: Social media Read the case study

1 min read

How the Safety Tech industry is creating a safer internet

With an ever-growing need to protect people online, we’re proud to be working with the Safety Tech industry. We’ve taken a look at just how this industry is going about such important, sensitive work online.    What is the Safety Tech industry? It provides innovative technology to protect people online, collaborating with organisations in this sector that share a commitment to improving online safety.  Safety Tech providers develop technology and solutions to create safer experiences and combat harmful content, contact or conduct. Whether it’s verifying the age of users, providing parental consent for when children are online, or advising and supporting a community of moderators to remove harmful content, they’re constantly exploring ways to help.    Why is Safety Tech important? Everyone has a right to feel safe online, yet sadly this isn’t the case. It’s far too easy for young people to access inappropriate and harmful content, with children as young as seven stumbling across pornography online. Children are being tricked into sharing explicit images of themselves (with the majority of self-generated child sexual abuse images of 11-13-year-old girls). With adults able to falsify their age to access younger platforms there’s growing concern that children’s privacy and rights are not protected.  But there are early signs of change. Across the UK and worldwide, more legislation is coming into force to address these issues. Last year, the ICO introduced the Children’s Code in the UK, imposing a set of standards for businesses to follow if their website or product is accessed by children. In the wake of work from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, the EU and Australia, California has also recently passed the Age Appropriate Design Code Act, which will come into force in 2024.  Along with this legislation, the Safety Tech industry’s solutions play a vital role in protecting people in these spaces.    What is Yoti’s role in the industry?  We always want to collaborate with those helping to safeguard young people and push for age-appropriate experiences online. Our age verification solutions let users prove they’re the right age to access a service, without sharing any personal information. By knowing the correct age of a user, you can provide an age-appropriate experience for children and young people. Our solutions can enable effective parental consent, prevent children from accessing age-restricted content, and stop adults from entering platforms designed for children.    How is Yoti’s technology improving online safety? This year, Instagram introduced our facial age estimation technology to verify the age of users who attempt to change their date of birth from under 18 to 18 or over. This way, Instagram can make sure both teens and adults are in an age-appropriate experience. The technology was first introduced in the US and is now in the UK, Europe, Brazil and India.  Yubo, the social network app for teens, is also using our facial age estimation technology to verify the age of all of those on their platform. With over 60 million users, Yubo understands the immense challenge of creating a safe environment for its community. The new age verification system reduces the risks of child abuse and other acts by preventing users who might misrepresent their age from joining Yubo.  Age verification technology also strengthens age-gating on Yubo, which separates users into different communities based on age, limiting interaction between teens and adults.  We’re also immensely proud to be working with Childline and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). NSPCC’s Childline partnered with the IWF to create Report Remove, a tool to help young people report explicit images of themselves on the internet. To use the tool, a young person needs to prove they are under 18, and Yoti gives people a private and safe way to prove their age, without needing to show ID documents or share personal data.    What’s next? The time for action is now. Businesses, regulators and parents all know that more needs to be done, so we’re proud to be playing our part and will continue to do so to ensure that the internet is a better place to be. 

4 min read