Instagram will require all users to enter their date of birth before using the app, Facebook said, as part of the company’s efforts to introduce a child-safe experience for users under the age of 18. years.
The requirement was introduced just two days before the UK started enforcing the age-appropriate design code. The code requires companies to identify child users and to make special efforts to protect their personal data, limit attempts to change their behavior and prioritize their well-being.
New users have to enter their date of birth as part of the app registration process since 2019, but, for the first time, existing users will be prompted for their age when opening the app. In the short term, rejecting the request will cause Instagram to scramble posts marked as sensitive. However, Instagram will eventually require users to add their date of birth to continue using the app.
“This information allows us to create new safety features for young people and helps ensure that we are delivering the right experiences to the right age group,” the company said in a statement. “Recent examples include changes we made in March to prevent adults from sending messages to people under the age of 18 who don’t follow them, and last month we started forwarding new ones by default. accounts belonging to persons under the age of 16 in a private setting. “
Another round of company updates has prevented advertisers from targeting audiences under the age of 18 using information other than their basic demographic information. It will also help the company comply with the age-appropriate design code.
Companies like TikTok and Google have also made major changes over the past month in the way they treat child users. But not all said future UK legislation was the reason for the wave of product updates. In a statement last month, a spokesperson for the Facebook company said the decision to tighten privacy settings for children “was not based on any specific regulations, but rather on what is best for safety. and the confidentiality of our community ”.
While Instagram does not require users to share proof that their date of birth is correct, the company uses a variety of techniques to identify children who entered false information as part of the registration process. Specific details are being kept under wraps, to prevent their bypassing, but the Guardian understands that signals such as the composition of a user’s friend list can flag accounts for further inspection.
Instagram’s latest update comes a day after UK Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza called for mandatory online age checks. In an interview with the Telegraph, De Souza said social media companies would be pressured to introduce “strong” age verification.
“At the end of the day, platforms cannot protect children online unless they know who the children are. Wouldn’t it be great if tech companies would do this on purpose and take their responsibilities seriously, rather than trying to avoid it. They sure don’t want kids to access this stuff online. They just need to bite the bullet on this one.
In addition to the age-appropriate design code, which requires platforms to design their sites in a child-centered way but does not specifically require age verification, the UK has already adopted a legislation that would force online pornography to be hidden behind age assurance technology. . However, the government delayed the implication of the so-called “porn ban” for more than two years and finally abandoned plans to fully enforce the law in October 2019.
In addition to simple versions of age verification, such as scanning legal identities or logging into government databases, some companies are now offering facial scanning technology, which can estimate the age of a person. user based on a selfie. The technology is already widely used in China, where it helps enforce laws limiting the number of video games children can play.