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How Does Age Verification in the Adult Industry Actually Work?

Adult-oriented platforms take up a huge part of the demand for Know Your Customer (KYC) solutions in the entertainment sector. To businesses selling age-restricted items and services, age verification is an effective tool to safeguard minors from accessing NSFW content. Learn more about services that need adult consent and, more specifically, the age verification process.

More and more international and local legislations enforce stricter laws regarding age verification requirements in various industries, especially adult entertainment. That means if a business sells age-restricted services to a minor, they are left with legal consequences. 

And let’s face it. A very small amount of adult-oriented platforms actually want to implement additional procedures that would potentially result in more friction or fewer users. 

So the issue is that it’s not enough to comply with KYC regulations anymore. Adult industry players must now 1) verify users’ ages, 2) be liable in cases of serving adult content to minors, 3) find a way to make the age verification experience as smooth as possible. 

If users are required to wait longer than a single minute for any action or response during the age verification process, naturally, they’re more likely to abandon your site and seek out a competitor that offers a more user-friendly experience.

Why is it Important to Conduct Age Verification Checks in the Adult Industry?

From the expert point of view, it’s also important to integrate age verification policies due to the increasing potential mental health harms of unregulated social media use, especially adult content websites. Legislators are emphasizing the content’s harmful effects on children and teenagers since social media is full of content that shows nudity, bullying, sex trafficking, or addiction.

And all the fuss started because the adult industry is now subject to stricter age verification laws to prevent minors from accessing explicit content or engaging in adult-oriented services. But to your surprise (or not), such businesses have a different response, claiming that digital rights and people’s civil liberties can be harmed if there would be strict age verification rules. Additionally, the removal of the well-beloved Internet’s anonymity shield doesn’t make a lot of users happy when it comes to adult platforms. 

In general, KYC compliance is designed to contribute to the universal goal of reducing fraud and identity theft. Verifying the identity of customers through reliable document verification and age verification methods helps to weed out fraudulent activities and safeguards against unauthorized access. This protects both the business and the genuine customers, ensuring a secure and trustworthy environment.

How Age Verification Protects the Adult Industry

How does the Age Verification Process Look Like on Adult Platforms?

Age verification processes aren’t a new concept in the digital sphere. In the United States, existing laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) impose specific regulations for individuals under the age of 13. Additionally, nearly all internet users, including platforms like YouTube and Facebook, have encountered the requirement to confirm their age while accessing adult content or signing up for an account at least once in their lifetime. 

A decade ago, if we talked about age verification systems, many had age gates in mind. But to this day, age gates typically involve users filling out a basic form where they manually enter their date of birth to confirm their age. This process is used in various online liquor stores, where users have to confirm their age to access the site, or on adult content platforms, where users verify their age by ticking a small box stating, “I confirm that I’m over 21”.

Age Gates and Security Issues

However, maybe your own experience can prove that people lie about their age. And surprise, surprise, it’s even more simple to do so online. So because of this issue and the zero-effort age gate bypassing, regulators are pushing KYC rules on adult entertainment platforms. A more modern-like age verification process today consists of the person submitting their ID document or confirming their age by uploading credit card information. 

How does the Adult Industry Respond to Age Verification Requirements?

Some adult content platforms advocate for mandatory age verification on all social media platforms as a means of demonstrating their commitment to responsible practices and protecting minors and teens. Of course, by encouraging age verification universally, they also ensure that users will not abandon their platform due to the presence of these additional requirements.

However, the technology industry, especially many RegTech businesses, is working on building customized age verification solutions that would help adult entertainment companies to live up to the ever-evolving requirements. Even big players like Apple have announced support for adding driver’s licenses to Apple Wallet. Certain countries, such as Poland, have legalized implementing a public electronic identification system. This system lets individuals possess official digital IDs instead of relying on traditional physical identification documents.

What are Some Common Age Verification Methods in the Adult Industry?

Age verification can be categorized into a few main methods in which age-restricted businesses validate their users’ age:

  • Using government-issued ID documents. The most common option adopted in the adult industry is relying on a third-party verification provider that directly authenticates the person’s credit card data or their government-issued identity documents, such as an ID card, passport, or driver’s license. For instance, in certain US states, such as Louisiana, government-issued identification is legally mandated to access pornographic sites.
Age Verification Workflow Example on Adult Platforms
  • Estimating a person’s age through facial recognition. On a more experimental level, there are now age verification solutions that don’t use any documents. Instead, they rely on your phone’s camera to record a video of your face. For example, Facebook and Instagram use this facial recognition technology to determine whether you’re of legal age. 
  • Guessing the age based on the user’s online activity. France’s National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) presented an alternative age verification method. It involves “guessing” a person’s age by analyzing their online activities. Regulators aim for age verification to be conducted by a separate entity from the adult website publisher. This would ensure that the verification solution provider knows the user’s identity but remains unaware of the specific website being visited, while the adult content site is aware of the user’s age but does not have access to their personal data.

Age Verification System Flaws

But, like many technological advancements, they aren’t flawless. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has found that many children in the US aged 16 to 19 might not have a government-issued ID that they can use to verify their age online. Automatically, that makes it more tempting for underage children to use fake IDs during the age verification process.

And while facial recognition-based age verification seems like a good fix, it has also received criticism for bias across gender or skin tone. In other words, some facial recognition software options are less reliable when it comes to people of color or people with facial asymmetry, which is not only unfair on a whole new level but also unethical.

However, reliance on the user’s online activity has presented deeper issues. Despite that, major platforms like TikTok have employed this age verification measure that uses AI to determine if a user is of a certain age. The process operates by analyzing specific data points, such as comments that indicate the user may be underage for accessing adult-only websites or social media platforms.

What are the Main Privacy Concerns in the Adult Industry?

As internet users get more aware of their data online and how important it is to keep it secure, they don’t want to upload any personal data,  especially to platforms holding adult material. That’s why age verification processes introduce privacy-related concerns and raise some questions, for example:

  • Data storing. After uploading a photo of their ID document on the adult platform, users can wonder whether their documents are securely stored, deleted, or potentially at risk of being misused.
  • Data tracking. Some age gates remember a user’s age for future visits without resorting to storing a database of personal information or tracking their browsing activities. This raises the question of how some age verification measures achieve this functionality while respecting user privacy and avoiding the potential for tracking their online behavior.

For example, device-based age verification raises significant privacy concerns because of storing individuals’ government IDs and personal information linked to their devices. It typically involves analyzing device-specific data such as the device’s phone number, location, or other relevant information to determine the user’s age eligibility. Instances like Twitter’s misuse of phone numbers collected for account security, resulting in targeted ad campaigns and subsequent FTC fines, serve as cautionary examples. 

Despite these worries, today’s digital identity verification market has evolved and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to accurately and quickly scan the user’s face and extract the personal details from any personal document, confirming or denying the person has the legal right to access age-restricted services in less than a minute. Typically, the mentioned third-party KYC compliance software providers also ensure secure data storage in compliance with GDPR regulations. 

How Companies Try to Abuse the System 

Experts argue that despite the overwhelming success in the digital environment, some age verification systems to this day are designed to fit in-person age verification checks better. Nevertheless, adult platforms still choose to implement weak or ineffective age verification measures that can be exploited on purpose. This enables them to have more active users on the platform. 

It’s a dangerous security line that can be crossed easily. Especially now that user-generated content on adult platforms is booming, posing major challenges to age verification systems. Content creators can use the classical fraudulent ways, such as uploading a fake document or buying a stolen one off the dark web. These circumstances make it difficult to verify the age of users uploading explicit content, as they may misrepresent their age or provide false information during the verification process.

Online Age Verification Solutions Can Help You Ensure Security in the Adult Industry

If your business operates in the adult industry, you might not have the time and resources to build a whole age verification system on your own. Here’s where iDenfy comes in. We provide custom-tailored KYC software enabling adult industry platforms to accurately verify and onboard users in a simple and timely manner.

Choose out of two methods — age verification using government-issued ID documents (the software extracts personal information and checks the user’s age to determine if they can access adult-oriented content); and age verification with built-in liveness detection (a 3D biometric map is created of the customer’s face to detect any spoofing attempts).

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