During the recent congressional session, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was asked about the company’s usage of biometrics to verify user age, and he provided some details. The executive was questioned how TikTok estimates its users’ ages after he or she denied that the app gathers body, face, or voice data to identify its users beyond what is necessary for its in-app AR filters to operate.

It’s important to note that the app had an age restriction feature for age gating. Specifically, this relates to the conventional practice of inquiring about the user’s date of birth. The user’s age determines which of three TikTok experiences they will have access to one for children under 13, one for older adolescents, and one for adults.

Nevertheless, relying only on this strategy is not a good idea since young people often provide false information about their age when creating accounts on social networking platforms.

However, TikTok checks for more than just the age specified in a field.

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Chew’s Statement About TikTok’s Practices

Chew said during the hearing that TikTok analyzes user videos to identify their age using facial recognition technology.

Chew continued to say, “We also have certain tools where we check into their public profile, and examine the videos that they upload to see if…” when Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) cut him off, saying, “That’s disturbing. Explicate it to me, please.

When some time had passed, Chew continued, saying, “It’s public. If you want anyone to see your uploaded video, you must decide to make it public. We check them to make sure they agree with the age you gave us,” he said.

Chew acknowledged that the conflicting privacy needs and age verification were significant difficulties for the sector.

The CEO’s answer would have been more intriguing if it had been followed up with a question on how TikTok was scanning these vidoes, what exact face recognition or other technologies it utilizes, and whether or not these technologies were produced in-house or relied on by third parties. However, if the user’s age is being utilized to do anything more than remove them from a TikTok LIVE broadcast, it’s important to know whether that information is being saved.

Regrettably, Carter didn’t continue to probe this area of interest. Instead, he harshly criticized the CEO for not taking age verification seriously.

Does TikTok Take Age Verification Seriously?

During the session, Carter was speaking out against the blackout challenge and other deadly challenges that have gone popular thanks to sharing platforms like TikTok. (Due to this issue, TikTok deleted 500,000 Italian accounts at the behest of the country’s regulator to prevent access to its site by minors.)

The absence of U.S. legislation regarding minors’ usage of social media platforms forces firms like TikTok and others to devise methods for determining user age to comply with the law.

For instance, Instagram just started checking users’ ages last year, giving them a choice of three possibilities. Users might verify their age by submitting an ID, a video selfie, or the intervention of trusted third parties such as friends or family. If trustworthy pals are prepared to lie on your behalf, you can easily avoid the latter.

In addition to the United States, Brazil, and Japan, Instagram has expanded support for its age verification capabilities in Canada and Mexico. The firm previously announced that it would work with Yoti, a London-based digital identity startup, to include a video selfie component in the age verification process.

Instagram Vs TikTok Age Verfication Process

Instagram has already provided a high-level explanation of how it determines which users it believes to be underage.

The business says it employs artificial intelligence to determine a user’s age, and it uses this to do more than only investigate flagged accounts. In terms of modeling user behavior, it considers the common patterns of engagement with material among users of a certain age. It may also detect a minor who has lied about their age by reading the responses to “Happy Birthday” postings for any mention of the user’s age. Instagram also claims it may utilize “many additional indications,” including a user’s Facebook age and Facebook’s disclosure of the user’s age, to verify a user’s claimed Instagram age.

TikTok’s method has been murkier up till this point. If you believe the business has mistakenly detected your age—say, you were banned from Facebook Live because you “looked too young”—you may find instructions on submitting proof of your identity on the company’s website. (This autumn, TikTok said that it would increase the minimum age to 18 to use its in-app live streaming service, TikTok LIVE).

Is TikTok Using Proper Age Verification Methods?

According to a report from last year, TikTok conferred with two 2021 facial age estimation software vendors. According to the story, both firms provided age-verification software, but a TikTok executive rejected the offers out of concern that China was snooping on the platform’s young users using face recognition technology.

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Feature Image Source: Photo by Tiktok