Under the Online Safety Bill, users’ requirement to verify their age on social media platforms inadvertently modifies their access to content on the internet. Age verification measures attempt to shield young users from adult content online. However, social media platforms could use this measure to collect personal information about vulnerable groups like children. Meta, for instance, uses Yoti, a facial recognition software that uses video selfies to estimate age. “Face prints” are as sensitive as fingerprints. Collecting biometric data of this scale inherently puts people’s privacy at risk.
Commenting on this, Mark Johnson, Advocacy Manager for privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said, “Social media sites already collect vast troves of deeply personal data. They should not be encouraged or compelled to collect even more through digital identity checks.”
The data of young users has been exploited before. In November last year, gambling sites used information extracted from a database of learning records of 28 million children. The UK Government’s regulator Ofcom was questioned for mishandling such sensitive data. Digital rights groups are rightly concerned about mission creep in the context of age verification measures.