The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), in collaboration with digital ID firm Yoti and Epic Games subsidiary SuperAwesome, proposes the use of an AI technology called “Privacy-Protected Facial Age Estimation” for age verification in game purchases. The technology is already in use outside the US, and they are now seeking approval for its implementation within the US.
The rise of tech-based age verification
Gone are the days where in-store employees had to manually verify a customer's age before selling them a mature-rated game. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has now proposed a more technologically advanced method for age verification - the use of “Privacy-Protected Facial Age Estimation”. This innovative tool, created in partnership with Yoti and SuperAwesome, could be incorporated by game developers into their products as an alternative to traditional age verification methods.
How does the AI-based age estimation work?
The operation of this technology is as fascinating as it sounds. Users snap a photo of themselves, which the system first checks for authenticity, ruling out the use of non-live images. The image then gets sent to a server where artificial intelligence technology deduces the person's age. If it determines that the person is an adult, it allows them to give purchase consent for minors. The technology does not involve facial recognition; rather, it merely estimates the person's age.
Yoti confidently asserts that their AI technology can accurately discern if a person is a minor through facial analysis, with a reported success rate of 99.7%. The system also cleverly considers potential scenarios of an older sibling or babysitter trying to make a purchase for a minor. To this end, it assesses the likelihood of an older individual having a much younger child, thus adding an extra layer of security in the age verification process.
Seeking FTC approval for US use
While the technology is already approved and in use in various regions outside the United States, the companies behind it are now striving to gain approval from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for its implementation within the US. The introduction of this technology, if approved, could introduce a significant change in the way age verification is carried out in the realm of video game sales in the country.
In the European Union and United Kingdom, the AI age verification technology has proven to be effective, according to Yoti. The effectiveness is highlighted by the fact that 35% of users in these regions get rejected due to being underage. This statistic provides a strong indication of the technology's capability to accurately determine age and thereby control minors' access to age-restricted games.
Privacy concerns surrounding the technology
With every technological innovation, especially those involving personal data, privacy concerns inevitably arise. This age estimation technology is no exception. Despite Yoti's reassurances that the captured images, including those of minors, are deleted and never utilized even for training purposes, a lingering sense of apprehension remains. However, the question of whether the benefits of the age verification technology outweigh the potential privacy concerns is yet to be seen.