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TikTok CEO says company scans public videos to determine age of users

Amid questions about TikTok’s use of biometrics during today’s congressional hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew gave insight into how the company potentially vets users. minors on its platform. After denying that the app collects body, facial or voice data to identify its users – beyond what is necessary for its built-in AR filters to work, that is – the executive how TikTok determined the age of its users.

Chew’s initial response was expected: the app uses age lock. This refers to the commonly used method that simply asks a user to provide their date of birth in order to determine their age. In TikTok, there are three different experiences: for users under 13, young teens, and adults 18+ — the experience the user receives is based on this age entry.

Relying solely on this method is a problem, of course, as children often lie about their age when signing up for social media apps and websites.

It turns out that TikTok does more than look at the age that is entered in a text box.

During the hearing, Chew added that TikTok scans users’ videos to determine their age.

“We’ve also developed tools where we look at their public profile, to go through the videos they post to see if…” Chew began, before being interrupted by Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), who interrupted, “That’s fishy. Tell me more about it.

When Chew was able to continue, he explained, “It’s public. So if you post a video, you’re choosing to have that video made public – that’s how you get people to see your video. We’re looking at it to see if it matches the age you talked about,” he said.

“Now it’s a real challenge for our industry because age assurance privacy is a really big issue,” Chew said.

An interesting follow-up question to the CEO’s response would have been to ask how TikTok scans these videos, what specific facial recognition or other technologies it uses, and whether those technologies were built in-house or whether it relied on technology of facial recognition. built by third parties. Then, of course, if any of the data associating the age with the user was stored permanently rather than being used to simply boot the user from a TikTok LIVE stream, for example.

Unfortunately for us, Carter did not pursue this line of questioning.

Instead, he criticized the CEO for dismissing age verification as an industry-wide issue.

“We are talking about children dying!” he exclaimed, referring to the dangerous challenges that apps like TikTok and others have allowed to go viral, such as the blackout challenge. (This challenge led TikTok to delete around half a million accounts in Italy to block underage users from its platform at the request of the local regulator.)

The reality is that age verification East an industry-wide concern and lack of U.S. laws on children’s use of social media is forcing companies like TikTok and others to develop their own processes.

For example, Instagram started verifying the age of users last year, giving users a choice of three options. Users can either upload an ID, record a video selfie, or ask mutual friends to verify their age on their behalf. The latter is relatively easy to circumvent if you have good friends willing to lie for you.

Earlier this month, Instagram rolled out its age verification tools in Canada and Mexico, in addition to existing support in the United States, Brazil, and Japan. The company previously said it partnered with London-based digital identity startup Yoti for the video selfie part of the age verification process.

Instagram has also previously explained at a high level how it identifies users it suspects are underage.

In addition to investigating reported accounts, the company claims to have developed artificial intelligence technology that it uses to infer someone’s age. His model understands how people in the same age group tend to interact with content. Another way to identify an underage user who is lying about their age is to analyze comments on “Happy Birthday” posts where a user’s age may be referenced. Additionally, Instagram said it may attempt to match a user’s age on Facebook with their stated age on Instagram, as well as using “many other signals” that it does not disclose.

TikTok’s technique has been less clear. The company documents how to verify your age if it has identified you incorrectly – for example, if you were kicked LIVE for looking too young. (Last fall, TikTok announced it was raising the age requirement to use its integrated live-streaming service, TikTok LIVE to 18, from 16 previously).

Last year, Bloomberg reported that TikTok met with two facial age estimation software vendors in 2021. Both companies offered software that could tell the difference between children and adults, but an executive from TikTok called off the deals over fears that a facial swipe like this could lead to fears China was spying on child users, the report said.

Today the United States had the CEO of TikTok in the hot seat, ready to explain the actual techniques TikTok uses for age determination, and all we got were screaming, blustering politicians who put on a show instead of getting real answers.

techcrunch Gt

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