‘Mission Impossible’ Masks, Bad Data, and Immature Age Verification of Social Media Tech Dogs

Yet another state has signed into law restrictions on young people’s use of social media, once again relying on platforms to use age verification technology to check users’ ages. But the latest efforts come amid concerns about the reliability and security of online identity verification.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recently signed legislation with regulations similar to those first enacted in Utah and later built upon in Arkansas and Florida, among others. The legislation requires parental consent for a minor to become an account holder or maintain existing accounts, and stipulates that social media companies cannot keep information they used to verify a person’s age.

Despite the widespread use of online identity verification technology in other countries and its reliance on state law, new research suggests the approach faces numerous problems, including risks such as document fraud, so-called “selfie spoofing,” and artificial intelligence-powered deepfakes. . These issues can not only hinder efforts to verify identities online, but also compromise people’s privacy.

A recent report from public policy think tank New America’s Open Technology Institute reflected this, as it warned that age verification mandates “may actually pose more risks than benefits.”

“Many social media platforms and other online operators already implement a wide range of age guarantee practices to comply with existing laws and enforce their own terms and conditions,” the report said. “These methods are not perfect, but requiring age verification, which often requires sharing government-issued identification, could negatively impact users’ constitutional rights, privacy, and security.”

In addition to arguments about its constitutionality and the cost of compliance, the report warned that age verification technology is technologically immature and therefore “technically not feasible.” The institute cited research from France that found six age verification solutions failed to respect users’ “rights, privacy and security,” and a report from Australia found “privacy, security, effectiveness and implementation issues.”

The report also argued that most age verification methods are “contrary” to data minimization, an attempt to limit the collection of personal information to only what is relevant and necessary to accomplish a specific task. As a result, the methods pose “significant risks” to users’ data privacy. Age verification companies have previously said that a comprehensive national data privacy law could address these concerns.

Other organizations and experts have warned about ‘low-tech fraud’ as more people could use fraudulent documents to verify their identity. A recent report from identity management company Socure shows that “document image-of-image,” which refers to when a user takes a photo or screenshot of an identification document, was the most common document fraud technique last year, as it occurred in 63% of all identification rejections.

With a growing number of states requiring minors to verify their age to use social media, image-of-image fraud could continue to rise.

“If I’m a 15-year-old who wants to access social media, and my parent has to give verifiable parental consent by scanning their ID and taking a selfie, it makes it a lot easier for me to swipe a message. Get ID from their wallet (if they don’t support me using these platforms) and then take a photo of the family photo on the wall to try to get the selfie,” said Eric Levine, Senior Vice President and Head of DocV at Socure. document verification arm.

Additional research has found that other approaches to verifying a person’s identity, such as facial biometrics, also pose challenges. However, identity management company iProov found in a recent survey that 61% were likely to use facial biometrics in stores and e-commerce websites, while 70% are open to using a mobile driver’s license to verify their identity online. Some states, including Louisiana, have already pioneered mobile driver licensing.

Social media companies could use facial age estimation, a popular method that uses artificial intelligence to analyze a person’s face in a still or live photo to estimate age. Opponents, cited in the Open Technology Institute report, say the method risks being inaccurate, while proponents such as age verification company Yoti claim they have trained their systems on millions of images and have a high level of accuracy.

The technology behind facial biometrics has continued to improve over the years as it is increasingly used at airports and to unlock mobile phones, said Ajay Amlani, iProov’s senior vice president and head of the Americas. These applications made it mainstream and improved it. Today, he says, a person’s face can be recognized by their computer’s camera because it uses light to reflect on the user’s face to capture the translucency of the skin, which would not be present in an AI-generated fake image.

The technology itself and the data on which facial biometrics is trained have also matured since some high-profile mistakes early on, Amlani said.

“Biometrics had fallen victim to some of the early implementations and the inaccuracies and skewed data sets that were used to train some of those early algorithms,” he said. “Early algorithms were not trained on well-represented databases and therefore came up with matching answers that were not accurate based on different ethnicities, colors or devices, and would perform differently. You needed more expensive devices with better cameras, but now even the cheaper cameras perform quite well.”

But even as facial biometric technology has evolved, new pitfalls have emerged. That includes so-called “selfie spoofing,” where fraudsters use images people post on their social media accounts to correspond with an identification document that has been stolen in some other way. Unlike document fraud, Socure’s report states that selfie spoofing is almost always done with nefarious thoughts in mind, and not by children looking to bypass their parents’ permission to use social media.

Socure’s Levine said there is “a perfect storm today” that allows fraudsters to steal people’s photos and use them to illegally verify an identity. And as technology advances, selfie spoofing is becoming more and more sophisticated.

“People normally think of face-swapping or face-switching as futuristic,” Amlani said, “if we go back to the ‘Mission Impossible’ movies about creating incredible masks that have to be crafted and fit your voice perfectly.”

But that future is now, he said.