Age verification system

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An age verification system, also known as an age gate, is any technical system that externally verifies a person's age. These systems are used primarily to restrict access to content classified, either voluntarily or by local laws, as being inappropriate for users under a specific age, such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, video games with objectionable content, pornography, or to remain in compliance with online privacy laws that regulate the collection of personal information from minors, such as COPPA in the United States.[1]

Age verification substantially increased in 2023-2024, with the passage of the U.K. Online Safety Act, a law in France,[2] laws in eight U.S. states including Texas and Utah,[3] and proposals at the federal level in the US, Canada,[4] Denmark,[5] and the EU.[6]


Birth date[edit]

The most basic form of age verification is to asks a person to input their date of birth on a form. However, this depends on an honor system that assumes the validity of the end user (which can be a minor who fraudulently inserts a valid date that meets the age criteria, rather than their own), and has thus been described as ineffective.[7][8]

Credit card verification[edit]

More sophisticated age verification systems require people to provide credit card information. However, this depends on an assumption that the vast majority of credit card holders are adults, because U.S. credit card companies did not originally issue cards to minors.[8] Additionally, a minor may still attempt to obtain their parent's credit card information, or defraud users into divulging their credit card number to an individual to use for their own purposes, defeating the stated purpose of the system.[9][10]

In 2005, Salvatore LoCascio pleaded guilty to charges of credit card fraud; one of his schemes had involved using credit card-based age verification systems to charge users for "free" tours of adult entertainment websites.[11]

Federated identification[edit]

MindGeek, a major operator of porn websites, operates an age verification provider known as AgeID. First introduced in Germany in 2015, it uses third-party providers to authenticate the user's age, and a single sign-on model that allows the verified identity to be shared across any participating website.[12][13]

Face recognition[edit]

The Australian government has proposed the use of facial recognition against official identification photos.[14]

Zero-Knowledge Proof[edit]

Zero-Knowledge proofs verify a person's age without disclosing their identity, either to the receiver, such as a business, or the verifying entity, like a government that issues a passport.[15]


The adult-oriented video game franchise Leisure Suit Larry presented players with trivia questions that, in the opinion of franchise creator Al Lowe, a child would not know the answer to (such as, for example, "All politicians are: a. hard-working, b. honest, c. on the public payroll"), in order to launch the game (although this can be bypassed with a keyboard shortcut).[16]

Online services

A number of online services provide an age verification service, some of which can be integrated into websites using an API.[17]

Legal mandates[edit]


Australia intended to implement requirements for age verification under the Online Safety Act 2021. In August 2023, minister of communications Michelle Rowland released a report by eSafety that indicated that recommended against such a scheme, finding that "at present, each type of age verification or age assurance technology comes with its own privacy, security, effectiveness or implementation issue", and suggesting that an industry code be adopted to promote the use of content filtering software to parents.[18]


In Canada, Bill S-210, An Act to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material, would require web sites offering pornographic content to implement effective age verification mechanisms to access pornographic content.[19]


In Germany age verification systems are mandated by the "Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag" which was introduced in September 2002.[20] The institution in charge KJM considers only systems equivalent to face-to-face verification as sufficient for age verification.[21]

United Kingdom[edit]

With the passing of the Digital Economy Act 2017, the United Kingdom passed a law containing a legal mandate on the provision of age verification. Under the act, websites that publish pornography on a commercial basis would have been required to implement a "robust" age verification system.[22][23] The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was charged with enforcing this legislation.[12][13][24] After a series of setbacks and public backlash, the planned scheme was eventually abandoned in 2019.[25]

While the UK government abandoned this legislation, age verification continues to be monitored and enforced by regulatory bodies including Ofcom[26] and the ICO.[27] Other standards are emerging for age assurance systems, such as PAS1296:2018.[28] The ISO standard for age assurance systems (PWI 7732) is also being developed by the Age Check Certificate Scheme, the Age Verification Providers’ Association, and other Conformity Assessment Bodies.[29]

United States[edit]

Some websites of alcoholic beverage companies attempt to verify the age of visitors so that they can confirm they are at least the American legal drinking age of 21.[30]

In 2000, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) took effect at the federal level, resulting in some websites adding age verification for visitors under the age of 13, and some websites disallowing accounts for users under the age of 13. Companies such as YouTube and ByteDance have received large fines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for not complying with COPPA.

In 2022, Louisiana became the first state to require age verification for accessing adult websites. Usage of LA Wallet, the state's digital ID and mobile drivers license app, subsequently spiked, as LA Wallet allows for remote identification via MindGeek, the owner of many major porn sites.

In 2023, several states, including Arkansas[31] and Utah,[32] passed social media addiction bills requiring users of social media platforms to be over the age of 18 or have parental consent, with these bills prescribing that age verification be used to enforce this requirement.[32][31] One such bill is the Utah Social Media Regulation Act, which is scheduled to take effect in 2024, and attempts to prevent minors from using social media from 10:30 PM to 6:30 AM.

In May 2023, a law passed in Utah requiring that pornography websites verify the ages of their visitors, although it has a clause that bars it from taking effect until five other states also implement similar measures.[33] A few days before the law passed, in order to protest the bill, Pornhub blocked their website from being viewed in Utah.[33] The trade group Free Speech Coalition filed a lawsuit against the state of Utah, claiming the law violated the First Amendment. The lawsuit was dismissed by US District Court Judge Ted Stewart on August 1, 2023; however, the Free Speech Coalition stated they would appeal this ruling.[34][35] In contrast, on August 31, 2023, US District Judge David Ezra invalidated a Texas law passed in June mandating age verification and health warnings before accessing pornographic websites and barred the state attorney general's office from enforcing the law on the grounds that it violates the right to free speech and is overly broad and vague. The Texas Attorney General's office stated they would appeal the ruling.[36][37] The 5th Circuit federal court of appeal overturned the injunction pending a full hearing.[38]

Trade Association[edit]

The sector is represented by the Age Verification Providers Association[39] which was founded in 2018 and had grown to have 27 members by 2023.[40]


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