Verifying Age Online : Keeping Up With ARCOM's Evolving Requirements

published on 02 May 2024

Is this user of the appropriate age ? 
➤ Is this user older than 15 ? Can they join this social network ?
➤ Is this user over 18 ? Can they access this adult website ? 

How can you be sure ? 

Finding a good solution to verify the age of online users and protect minors is one of the main challenges websites and regulators face at the moment.

1. ARCOM study reveals a pressing need for new age verification standards

In 2023, ARCOM (ex CSA), the French digital communication regulator, released a new study revealing a worrying trend - 2.3 million French under the age of 18 visit pornographic sites every month, which represent a 36% increase over 5 years.

👉 Here is the link to the study

This is particularly alarming knowing that exposing minors to such content is a direct violation of the French law. 

To respond to this problem, ARCOM announced that all platforms distributing adult content accessible in France will have to implement rigorous age checks and failure to comply will result in severe penalties like website blocking or delisting from search engines.

But… while protecting young people from unauthorized content is essential, the key challenge is balancing internet safety with user privacy and data protection laws. Indeed, traditional centralized age verification methods often rely on users sharing personal information with websites, raising privacy concerns.

How can this be achieved?

2. Introducing ARCOM’s "Double Anonymity" principle to protect French users privacy 🇫🇷

Rather than having users sending their personal data directly to a website before accessing the content they want to access, the Double Anonymity principle involves a trusted third party in the middle, certifying an individual's date of birth or legal age.

Here is how it works : 

1/ Download : Users download a mobile wallet (like Talao or Altme) and claim their age credential.

2/ Claim : After following the age verification process, a reusable digital credential proving legal age is issued to the user's wallet.

3/ Present : When visiting an age-restricted website (adult website, social network, betting platforms…), the user presents the age credential from their mobile wallet.

This graphic explains how the future of age verification should work 👇

Credit : CNIL / ARCOM
Credit : CNIL / ARCOM

In this process, Double Anonymity stems from the fact that : 

➤ The trusted third party (age verification service) does not know how the age certificate will be used.

The website only receives proof of the user's age status, without access to their identity - only that they are of legal age for example.

3. Why Decentralized Identity is the key ?

While traditional methods rely on a centralized system where user data and browsing history are accessed by a single entity, compromising privacy, decentralized Identity wallets such as Talao offer better solutions.

Indeed, Decentralized Identity wallet architectures give users control over personal data and enable privacy-preserving authentication flows. Users claim, store and manage their own Verifiable Credentials (such as proof of identity, proof of age…), eliminating the need for a central system holding user data.

The latest ARCOM's publication also reveals that "An age verification system using “double anonymity” must not allow for any other third parties involved in the process to recognize a user who has already used the system. For example, a third party ensuring the transmission of proof of age or certifying its validity must not be able to know whether it has already processed proof of the same user."

In other words, the Double Anonymity standard should be combined with ephemeral credentials to further protect user privacy. Using ephemeral age credentials will ensure that service providers (adult or pornography websites) cannot track users visit frequency. Basically, it makes impossible for websites to tell if the user has used a “proof of age” credential before, keeping their browsing history entirely private.

If the experiments around this ARCOM’s new online age verification requirements are successful, this new standard could quickly extend to all websites needing age verification, not just pornographic sites. Indeed, it's not complicated to envision its applicability for gaming sites involving money (especially online gambling, sports betting, web3 gaming platforms...) or even social networks with a minimum age requirement of 15 in France for example. 

4. Preparing for ARCOM's Evolving Requirements 

ARCOM is working hard to reshape the future of online age verification in France. By leveraging Decentralized Identity wallets like Talao or Altme, websites and platforms can get ready to implement compliant age checks processes while prioritizing user trust and data protection.

Talao's wallets are designed from the ground up to meet these strict privacy requirements by putting users in full control of their identity data. Users can comply with ARCOM's requirements, proving their age while ensuring the service provider cannot track how often they visit the website.

👉 Want to learn more about how Talao can help you implement the incoming age verification requirements? Let's connect and explore the possibilities together.

Talao Wallet - Proof of age
Talao Wallet - Proof of age

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