Age verification system

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An age verification system, also known as an age gate, is a technical protection measure used to restrict access to digital content to those that are not appropriately-aged. 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 and tobacco advertising, internet pornography or other forms of adult-oriented content, video games with objectionable content, or to remain in compliance with online privacy laws that regulate the collection of personal information from children (such as COPPA in the United States).[1]

Legal mandates[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the Digital Economy Act 2017 will require websites publishing porn commercially to employ an age verification system, with the British Board of Film Classification tasked in enforcing the provisions.[2][3][4] The implementation of this rule was delayed indefinitely, in order to allow the BBFC to draft and receive approval for official guidelines regarding the age verification requirements.[5][6] Implementation was later scheduled around April 2019.[7]


Birth date[edit]

The most basic form of age verification is to ask users 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.[8][9]

Credit card verification[edit]

More sophisticated age verification systems require users 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.[9] 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.[10][11]

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.[12]

Federated identification[edit]

MindGeek, a major operator of porn websites, operates an age verification provider known as AgeID. Active in Germany since 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.[2][3] MindGeek's system has faced criticism for the possibility that this information could be processed and mined for other purposes.[6]


In the United Kingdom, in response to concerns surrounding the data privacy of online age verification systems in the wake of GDPR,[6] the BBFC suggested that a system of gift card-like vouchers, purchased in person with ages checked by the retailer (identically to other age-restricted purchases such as alcohol) would provide a more anonymous and secure solution to age verification.[13]


The adult-oriented video game franchise Leisure Suit Larry required players to answer trivia questions that, in the opinion of franchise creator Al Lowe, a child would not know the answer to, in order to launch the game (although this can be bypassed with a keyboard shortcut).[14]


  1. ^ "Letting Your Kids Play in the Social Media Sandbox". The New York Times. 2015-02-18. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  2. ^ a b "Pornhub owner may become the UK's gatekeeper of online porn". Engadget. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  3. ^ a b "Pornhub's owner reveals its age verification tool for the UK". Engadget. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  4. ^ Kleinman, Zoe (2018-03-06). "Porn check critics fear data breach". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  5. ^ "UK government delays rollout of controversial age-verification porn laws". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  6. ^ a b c Gayle, Damien (2018-03-27). "UK website age checks could create Facebook of porn, critics warn". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  7. ^ Manthorpe, Rowland (2019-03-06). "Why the UK's porn block is one of the worst ideas ever". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  8. ^ Debruge, Peter (2013-05-02). "Trailers Jump on the Age-Restricted Red-Band Wagon". Variety. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  9. ^ a b "Why Online Age Checks Don't Work". Retrieved 2018-04-27.(subscription required)
  10. ^ "Oz Proposes Tough New Filter Law". Wired. 2001-11-22. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
  11. ^ "Witness: Credit cards not age verifying tools". CNET. 1999-01-21. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  12. ^ Milmo, Dan (2005-02-16). "US gang admits $650m internet porn fraud". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  13. ^ "UK newsstands will sell 'porn passes' to verify ages under new laws". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  14. ^ Hogge, Beckey. "How to Catch a Humbert – Could a "yoof" questionnaire help identify internet paedophiles?". Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved 2009-02-23.