Age Verification Vs. Age Gating : How to Protect Minors Online

Age Verification and Age Gating: What Your Website Needs to Protect Minors

Age gating is a common but outdated way to prevent minors from accessing websites they shouldn’t. Sites dealing with products and services such as alcohol, gambling, and online dating often ask visitors to confirm their age. But anyone can pretend to be an adult, making this method easy to bypass. Particularly if you’re in an industry subject to regulatory requirements or if you sell eCommerce products to credit card holders presumed to be adults, you need a more robust age verification process.

Here we’ll clarify the difference between age gating and age verification. We’ll examine the pros and cons of traditional age gating methods and then look at how age verification solutions overcome some of the limitations of conventional age gates. We’ll explain how to verify someone’s age online and examine the benefits of using a solid age verification solution.

What Is an Age Gate?

An age gate is a page or pop-up which asks a website visitor to confirm that they are old enough to use the site’s products or services before continuing. It is designed to prevent minors from misusing sites that deal in products and services such as:

  • Pornography
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco products, vaping, and e-cigarettes
  • Cannabis
  • Gaming
  • Age-rated video gaming
  • Firearms

One of the simplest age gate examples encountered on these sites is a simple yes or no question asking the visitor to confirm that they are 18 or over, or in some cases, 21 or another minimum age requirement. The visitor must click on a button or checkbox to proceed past the page or pop-up to continue using the site and its services. If the visitor clicks on the button indicating that they are old enough, they will be redirected to continue. Otherwise, if they indicate they are not old enough, the visitor will be redirected to a message explaining that they must be of age to use the site.

Another standard method of website age verification is asking the visitor to enter their date of birth. If the visitor enters a date of birth indicating they are too young to use the site, they receive a message informing them that they must be a certain age to continue.

Age gates may be created by web developers or added through third-party apps. Many apps are available which automate age gate creation. Alternately, it’s easy for a web developer to add a custom age gate page or pop-up to a home page or another landing page.

What Are the Pros of Age Gate Websites?

The main benefit of age gates is that they send a message alerting underage visitors they shouldn’t be using your site. This may discourage some visitors who aren’t old enough to use your site.

Additionally, age gates are simple and inexpensive to set up, and they seemingly offer an easy age verification method for website visitors.

Common Disadvantages of Age Gating

The obvious drawback of age gating is that visitors can claim to be older than they are. It’s easy for a minor to figure out that they can claim to be an adult or enter a false date of birth.

Because of this limitation, regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions don’t regard age gating as a sufficient online age verification method for compliance with restrictions in specific industries. More substantial proof of age may be required, such as a government-issued identification card, if you’re subject to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) or Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations.

Beyond regulatory requirements, a weak age gating system can harm your brand’s public image. Online visitors may have security and privacy concerns if it looks like you don’t have an effective age verification system.

What Is Age Verification?

An age verification system goes beyond age gating by requiring identity verification to validate visitor age. This may be done through means such as:

  • Requiring scans of a valid identity document
  • Using facial recognition analysis of selfies to confirm matches between ID photos and live individuals
  • Cross-referencing data from ID documents with third-party data from sources such as government and public databases

Less robust solutions tend to rely exclusively on data cross-referencing. Best-in-class solutions combine this with more robust methods such as requiring photo ID and selfie liveness authentication.

How Does Age Verification Work Online?

Incode’s age verification system illustrates a best-in-class example of the process used in online age checks. With Incode, age is verified during user onboarding and subsequent transactions by validating the user’s identity with biometric authentication:

  • The user presents a valid identity document when creating an account or making an online purchase.
  • The user’s age is calculated based on the date of birth on their government-issued photo ID. Incode can verify the authenticity of the document.
  • The user’s identity is confirmed or disconfirmed as a match with the ID using a selfie capture for biometric authentication. Incode’s patented liveness detection will determine if the selfie represents a live person or someone trying to fool the camera with a photo.
  • This third-party age verification system provides businesses with a secure, cost-effective way to confirm visitors’ ages. Adding photo ID coupled with biometrics provides significantly stronger authentication than age gating.

Benefits of Age Verification Solutions

Age verification solutions provide valuable benefits for businesses as well as consumers:

  • Protecting minors online: age verification provides more substantial protection to minors than age gating
  • Preventing fraud: an age verification system can serve as part of a comprehensive identity authentication system to prevent fraud and money-laundering
  • Maintaining compliance: using an age verification solution helps companies meet applicable regulatory requirements
  • Maintaining brand reputation: by using strong age verification methods, you demonstrate that your brand is serious about protecting minors and complying with regulatory obligations

These benefits make using an age verification solution the smart move for brands operating in industries and jurisdictions where authenticating visitor ages is a requirement or a best practice.

Automate Your Age Verification Processes with Incode

An age verification solution lets you provide more substantial protection to minors than age gating. Using technology such as ID scanning and facial recognition to enhance your age authentication processes, you can reduce the risk of minors misusing your site, lowering your risk of regulatory violations and liability concerns.

The best way to strengthen your age verification process is by using a fully automated identity authentication solution that integrates age verification checks with biometrics and other identity proofing methods. Incode’s Omni platform incorporates biometric age verification into a comprehensive identity authentication solution that combines secure identity protection with a frictionless customer experience. To see how it works, contact our team today for a demonstration of frictionless age verification in action.