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Instagram tests AI that guesses users’ age by scanning their face

·2-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Instagram is testing a new facial recognition tool that uses AI to guess and verify the age of users.

The technology, developed by London-based startup Yoti, involves scanning a person’s face with their phone or computer camera and using machine learning to determine how old they are.

It has already been approved for use by the UK government and German regulators for digital ID purposes and checking the age of individuals accessing 18+ adult content online.

Facebook-owned Instagram requires users to be at least 13 years old to use the app, with current verification features for new users limited to simply asking them their date of birth.

Existing users attempting to alter their birthdate are required to verify their age by sending images of their ID cards or passports.

Yoti claims to be able to accurately guess a person’s age in a matter of seconds, though tests of the software by The Independent found that the tool was inaccurate by up to 20 years.

“Yoti’s facial age estimation is an effective, secure age-checking service that can estimate a person’s age by looking at their face,” a recent white paper published by the company stated.

“There is no need for a physical check of documents or human intervention... The model cannot infer anything else about a person, nor can it uniquely identify a person.”

Instagram is also introducing a new social vouching tool for users, which allows people to verify their age by having three mutual followers over the age of 18 confirming their age.

The trial comes just a day after Microsoft announced that it would be retiring its own facial recognition technology from public use due to ethical concerns.

The tech giant’s Face API was used to guess a person’s emotional state, gender and age, and had been used by Uber to verify that the driver using the app matches the account on file.

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