Instagram has released a new set of tools made for determining the users’ age. If you claim that you’re over 18, you will have to provide the platform with a video selfie so that AI can take a good look at you. Alternatively, you may also be asked to submit a photo of your personal ID or have adult friends vouch that you are, indeed, older than 18.
The test has been rolled out to US users, and if it’s successful, it will become a standard feature and be rolled out globally. If you’re already on Instagram, you’re good to go. But you’ll see the new features in two scenarios. One, if you’re just registering, and two, if you try to change your age from under 18 to 18 and over. You may have made a mistake when setting your birth date, but you may also be a teenager trying to be an adult – Instagram has no way of telling. Or actually, now it has.
It’s worth noting that Instagram still requires users to be at least 13 years old to sign up. In some countries, the minimum age is higher. “When we know if someone is a teen (13-17), we provide them with age-appropriate experiences like defaulting them into private accounts, preventing unwanted contact from adults they don’t know and limiting the options advertisers have to reach them with ads,” Instagram writes.
So, what happens if you make or change your age to be over 18? First, Instagram will ask you for a valid ID. It can be your driver’s license, passport, personal ID… Anything with either your full name and photo, or your full name and your birth date. You can find the list of eligible ID’s on Instagram’s help page, and this is obligatory if you claim to be over 18. Instagram claims that your ID will be stored securely on its servers and deleted within 30 days, and I’ll just leave this here.
In addition to uploading your ID, you can choose one of the two new options:
Video selfie: Instagram has teamed up with Yoti for this feature. It’s a company that “specializes in privacy-preserving ways to verify age,” as Instagram describes it. If you choose this option, you’ll see instructions on your screen to guide you how to position your head and take the selfie. “After you take a video selfie, we share the image with Yoti, and nothing else.” Instagram claims. AI then estimates your age based on your facial features and shares that estimate with Instagram, after which both Meta and Yoti then delete your image. “The technology cannot recognize your identity – just your age,” Instagram reassures us.
Social Vouching: this is another option you can choose and it doesn’t require sharing your selfies beyond those you already post to your Instagram profile. It lets you ask mutual followers to confirm how old you are. “The person vouching must be at least 18 years old, must not be vouching for anyone else at that time and will need to meet other safeguards we have in place,” Instagram notes. “The three people you select to vouch for you will receive a request to confirm your age and will need to respond within three days.”
The video selfie feature was first discovered back in 2021. XDA Developers found it, and social media consultant Matt Navarra posted it on his Twitter. The difference is that it was not meant for age verification, but to verify if a human was behind the account. Interestingly enough, Instagram claimed back then that there would be no AI involved when analyzing the video selfies. I wonder what they’d have to say now.
On the one hand, young children use the social media app even if they’re way below the age limit. So, it sure is a good idea to use more tools to verify if the users really are as old as they say. But on the other hand, asking for video selfies and a personal ID from a company known for multiple data breaches… Does that really sound like a good idea? All in all, this only proves that there’s no way we can win. At least if we want to have an Instagram account.