New European Commission report explores age assurance

A new study, commissioned under the BIK+ strategy, explores age assurance, including age verification tools, in today's digital landscape. It aims to provide insights into available options for age assurance and outlines essential criteria for effective age verification across different services.

Date 2024-04-19 Author European Commission Section awareness Topic media literacy/education Audience media specialist, organisations and industry, parents and carers, research, policy and decision makers
Women hands protecting a family with children from paper

The internet offers children and young people many opportunities for growth and empowerment. However, alongside these benefits come risks, including exposure to age-inappropriate content, conduct, contact, and consumer practices. Age assurance is one of the solutions to protect children online, as mentioned in the Digital Services Act (DSA), the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) and the Better Internet for Children+ (BIK+) strategy.

Therefore, the European Commission (DG Connect) commissioned this study, titled Mapping age assurance typologies and requirements, under the BIK+ strategy to outline the legal and practical aspects of age assurance, detailing its necessity, methods, and associated challenges.

Age assurance refers to the methods used to determine an individual's age with different levels of confidence or certainty. They can be grouped into three main categories: age estimation, age verification, and self-declaration. Digital service providers bear the primary responsibility for ensuring proportionate age assurance.

While age assurance is not a one-size-fits-all solution, it is an important tool for safeguarding.

Age verification, which offers the most certainty, is necessary when age-related eligibility is crucial to protect the child from significant potential harm, such as exposure to adult or violent content at a young age

This report considers ten main methods of age assurance and their advantages and disadvantages:

  • Self-declaration
  • Hard identifiers
  • Credit cards
  • Self-sovereign identity
  • Account holder confirmation
  • Cross-platform authentication
  • Facial age estimation
  • Behavioural profiling
  • Capacity-testing 
  • Third-party age assurance services.

In addition, the report also examines ten key requirements of age assurance tools: proportionality, privacy, security, accuracy, functionality, inclusivity, participation, transparency, notification mechanisms, and considering the child’s perspective.

Read more on the European Commission website. The full research report can be read or downloaded from the Publications Office of the European Union websiteExecutive summaries are also available in English and French.

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