Age Gating vs Age Verification: Protecting Minors Online

“Are you over 21 years of age?” isn’t the most secure age gating method out there today. In other words, age gating refers to an online practice where users are asked to provide their birthdate, select their age, or confirm that they meet the legal age requirement to access age-restricted content. To minimize the chances of minors bypassing such age gates, more businesses use AI-powered age verification systems instead. Read more.

Typically, we associate age gates with checkboxes and random pop-ups, and that’s exactly what they are. To this day, an age gate is a popular way for businesses to confirm a person’s age. Like other age verification methods, age gating helps restrict minors from accessing certain services, such as iGaming platforms or adult-oriented content. 

However, age gating is criticized among the public due to its huge security gaps. Under-age users tend to lie about their age and use fake date of birth data to access online e-commerce shops for alcohol and similar age-restricted products.

In contrast, regulators worldwide have been presenting strict rules, pushing companies to adopt more robust age verification solutions that require verifying a customer’s identity through document verification, for example. In this case, an automated age verification solution should be implemented to check the person’s government-issued ID document. 

We explain both processes and pinpoint the key factors allowing you to determine which solution — age gating or age verification — better meets your business needs. 

What is Age Gating?

Age gating is a method to restrict access to specific features or content on a website. Companies use age gating to prevent children from engaging with material unsuitable for their age. Typically, users must enter and confirm their birthdate during the age gating process. 

An age-gating example is a simple confirmation box that verifies that the customer meets a specified age requirement and can access certain content. Despite serving as a reasonable protective measure, age gating has its drawbacks, including susceptibility to abuse and reliance on user honesty. 

In response, online platforms often explore more robust solutions, such as age verification, to address these limitations. This vulnerability has led to the enactment of age restriction regulations in several states, particularly for pornography websites. Ultimately, age gates rely on the user’s honesty, making them susceptible to easy bypassing by individuals who simply provide false age details.

Examples of Age-Gated Content

As many businesses shift to the digital space, businesses must protect age-gated content with security in mind. Age-gated content is also categorized as a “soft” form of age verification, where users confirm their age without actually completing a proper KYC check.

Here are some popular examples of age-gated content:

Additional merchants might seek parental consent and age verification, especially on social networks that deal with sensitive data. This ensures that children can’t access potentially risky or inappropriate content.

Age Gating Explained

Examples of Age Gates Online

The most popular example of age gates on a website is a checkbox or a form field prompting customers.

To illustrate this matter further, here are some age gates examples:

  • Alcohol. Online platforms selling alcoholic beverages employ age gating, requiring users to verify their age before accessing or making purchases. For example, an e-commerce beverage company prompts users with “Are you over 21 years of age?” and requires a “yes” click for site entry for customers purchasing alcoholic drinks. 
  • Age-rated video gaming. Video game platforms incorporate age gating for games with mature content, requiring users to confirm their age or parental consent before accessing such content. For example, video gaming service providers ask users to choose their age from a drop-down menu before proceeding.
  • Gambling. iGaming sites platforms integrate age gating, ensuring that users are of legal gambling age in their jurisdiction before allowing them to participate in betting activities. For instance, an online casino site can ask users to input their birthdays before granting access.

What is Age Verification?

Age verification is a security process that’s built to check a user’s eligibility to access specific content, products, or services. Age verification solutions typically verify ID documents or cross-reference personal details with third-party data sources.

In other words, an age verification system offers businesses a secure and reliable method to permit access to online activities for individuals of the appropriate age. It provides companies with a secure and reliable method to permit access to online activities for individuals of the appropriate age, all while maintaining compliance with relevant rules and regulations.

Age verifications come in various forms, ranging from basic database checks to more comprehensive methods like video calls during a job interview where candidates present their IDs. Generally, modern-age verification solutions use electronic methods that are powered by AI and facial recognition technology.

Examples of Age-Restricted Markets

Any online retailer involved in age-restricted activities or services requiring adult consent must implement an age verification system. Selling age-restricted items to minors is not only illegal but also unethical, risking negative media coverage and loss of customer trust. 

Some common examples of age-restricted markets in the US include:

  • R-rated movies
  • Lottery tickets
  • Online gaming
  • Aerosol paint
  • Dating sites
  • Razors (type-dependent)
  • Guns (type-dependent)
  • Fireworks (state-dependent)

Examples of Age Verification Systems

Traditionally, people were accustomed to being identified in person, but with the shift to online transactions, businesses now encounter the task of verifying a person’s age over the internet. 

The process can vary significantly depending on the chosen verification method. However, the key types of age verification systems consist of:

  • In-person age verification. Like buying alcohol at a liquor store, it involves presenting a passport or a driver’s license. The seller checks the document’s authenticity using security features like NFC chips or barcodes, looking for signs of forgery, such as unusual fonts or holographic foils. They verify identity by comparing the photo to the person and confirming the listed date of birth. 
  • Online age verification. It plays a similar principle but with distinct steps. Instead of a physical seller, online age verification uses a form of government ID verification, sometimes combined with a selfie identity verification. Usually, the customer begins by scanning a valid ID. Next, facial recognition confirms if their features match the ID photos. The final step in the online age verification system involves cross-referencing data from government and public databases.
Age Verification Explained

The Difference Between Age Gating and Age Verification

The main distinctive factor of age gating and age verification lies in the depth of the verification process. Age gating is a simpler, less secure method relying on user self-declaration, while age verification employs more advanced techniques to ensure a higher level of accuracy and compliance with legal requirements. 

Disadvantages of Age Gates

Minors can easily bypass age gates by providing false information or creating fake accounts. In the long run, solely relying on user-provided age confirmation without proper verification isn’t the best option for businesses. Consequently, companies can’t be certain whether users are truthful in their declarations.

Besides, age gates don’t comply with regulations like the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act. Another example is the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which, at the federal level, requires businesses to verify that customers are at least 21 years old before permitting them to buy or receive alcohol.

Disadvantages of Age Gates

Benefits of Using Age Verification

Age gates also lack the crucial element of cross-checking or verifying a user’s age, relying solely on self-reported data. That makes modern AI-powered age verification solutions more effective. Their advanced algorithms can identify discrepancies, swiftly recognizing individuals attempting to use fake or synthetic identities

For instance, such automated age verification solutions use biometrics and data comparison to verify a user’s age. This functionality not only assists companies in more easily preventing underage visitors from engaging in non-consensual transactions but also ensures compliance with international age verification regulations, such as COPPA, the GDPR, or the UK Gambling Act.

How Does Automated Age Verification System Work?

The most basic online age gating method is the common “Are you ___ years old?” pop-up. Its simplicity has one major drawback. This type of verification depends entirely on trust, allowing users to provide false information if they are underage easily.

What we mean today by talking about automated age verification is real-time identity verification with the intent to check the customer’s age. In terms of staying compliant and ensuring a great user experience, it’s currently considered the most reliable method for remotely confirming identity documents and age.

Here’s a step-by-step overview of the online age verification process:

  • The user captures a photo of their government-issued document, such as a passport or driver’s license.
  • An automated age verification system extracts and analyzes the data from the user’s photo for authenticity.
  • The user submits a series of selfie photos for further verification.
  • The age verification system compares and matches the selfies against the user’s identity document photo.
  • The age verification system determines the user’s age, either allowing or rejecting their attempt to access age-restricted content.

These systems offer advantages such as extracting details like name, date of birth, and passport number, and importantly, reading and verifying critical security elements like the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ).

Age Gating vs Automated Age Verification

While age gating might seem like the simpler version and the go-to verification method for end-users, it doesn’t provide the same level of security. 

Automated age verification solutions, on the other hand, provide businesses with customization options, allowing diverse industries and large customer bases to meet compliance requirements tailored to specific use cases.

With iDenfy, you can embrace AI-powered age verification technology and adapt to changing age-related regulations, as well as:

  • Increase customer conversions by using automated software to guide customers through the age verification process on both mobile and web platforms.
  • Safeguard your company and users by identifying tampered IDs and spoofing to block fraudsters. Prevent the abuse of underage sign-ups for age-restricted content.

Use identity verification, assess age requirements, and implement additional checks for validity, AML checks, and blocklist screenings based on your risk assessment.

Need more info? Talk to sales today. 

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