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Instagram tests face scans to verify user ages

Alexandria Williams
June 23, 2022

The Meta-owned social media platform is testing new tools to verify ages of US users. The tech was developed by Yoti, an AI digital identity company.

Instagram social media service running on a smartphone.
Instagram was acquired by Meta (the Facebook) in 2012Image: Alexander Ryumin/TASS/picture alliance/dpa

Instagram will test new options for users to verify their age, starting with users in the United States. The new AI-based toolbox was developed by Yoti, a company that specializes in online age verification. Yoti has been approved by a German regulator for youth media protection.  

"We're testing this so we can make sure teens and adults are in the right experience for their age group," Instagram wrote in a press release.

Users who are not able to confirm that they are older than 13 will not be able to use Instagram.

The new options 

US users will be able to choose from two new verification options. 

The first is a video selfie that Instagram will share with Yoti. The AI company will then estimate a user's age based on their facial features and share that estimate with Instagram.

The second option is what Instagram calls "social vouching." The option requires a user to select three mutual followers to vouch for them. The followers will then have three days to respond to the request. Each person vouching is required to be at least 18 years old to participate.


Smartphone with social media apps
Instagram faced backlash over its lack of child protection measuresImage: Gregor Macak Martin/CTK/dpa/picture alliance

The company stated that these new measures will "prevent teens from accessing Facebook Dating, adults from messaging teens, and help teens from receiving restricted ad content.”

How Yoti works

Yoti is able to estimate facial age using AI trained on "anonymous images of diverse people from around the world who have transparently allowed Yoti to use their data," Instagram wrote. 

Yoti claims that all images used to train its AI technology were collected transparently and can be deleted by the person at any time. Any data collected from a person under 13 required the explicit approval of a guardian. 

Why Instagram wants to verify users' ages

Instagram did not always require users to confirm their age upon sign-up. This was not introduced until 2019, following mounting pressure from law makers and child safety advocates. 

After the switch, Instagram introduced pop-ups that asked users to enter birth dates. The Meta-owned company beefed up this measure by rolling out a feature that allowed for age confirmation using a government-issued photo ID. 

Instagram may face pushback for its new verification methods from users who do not want their private photos sent to third parties. But the tech company has promised images used for age verification will be deleted and will not determine a user's real identity. 

"The technology cannot recognize your identity — just your age," Instagram wrote. 

AFP contributed to this report

Edited by: Rob Turner