In March 2021, 5Rights Foundation published its report *But how do they know it is a child?. *
The report examined and evaluated the different approaches to age assurance, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and set out the common standards that all age assurance systems must be built upon. The introduction of proportionate age assurance tools across the digital world does not require additional or new technology, but an agreed criteria and standards to ensure the efficacy, accuracy, security and privacy of different approaches, backed by a regulatory framework with robust oversight and accountability.
In the months since the original publication of this report, new regulations have come into force which have changed the way services approach ascertaining the age of their users. In September the Age Appropriate Design Code came into force, requiring services likely to be accessed by children to take a risk-based approach to recognising the age of their users, and in May, the UK government published the Draft Online Safety Bill, which will require providers to assess whether or not it is possible for children to access their services. In response, we have already seen many online services make changes to how they establish the age of their users and provide them with age appropriate experiences.
In light of these changes, today we are releasing an updated version of But how do they know it is a child?.In it, we reiterate that services should implement proportionate and privacy-respecting age assurance which supports children’s participation in the digital world, while protecting them from harm, promoting their wellbeing and ensuring they are free from commercial pressure. Research and investment in new age assurance solutions is likely to accelerate, and the need for clear guidance and effective regulation is being recognised: the Information Commissioner’s Office has recently published an official Age Assurance Opinion, clarifying how services can meet their obligations under the Age Appropriate Design Code.
We welcome the positive announcements from companies over the last few months, but also recognise that the need to design and enforce minimum standards for age assurance has not yet been met. In our updated But how do they know it is a child?, we set out what those standards should be.
Today’s updated But how do they know it is a child? is our latest contribution to the ongoing debate on age verification, estimation and assurance. We invite you to read, share and discuss.