Online Age Verification in Europe
Know Your Customer (KYC) has become increasingly important in Europe over the past few years. European governments have proposed and are enforcing previously passed legislation requiring online enterprises to more assuredly verify customers’ identity.
One key area of customer verification is age. For example, online gambling has age restrictions in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany.
However, commonly used age gates typically do not meet the requirements for confirming a user’s age. Another example is that of pornography. Age verification is essential for internet viewing in European nations where pornography is permitted; however, ineffective age gates often do not suffice as appropriate verification.
Additionally, new stringent European regulations and public concern call for strengthening identity verification processes in order to avoid severe penalties or public backlash. Recent actions include:
The Digital Services Act, (DSA), has been introduced which includes rules for online enterprises to protect EU citizens with higher standards of safeguards. The DSA aims to block illegal online content, goods, and services. As it stands, online entities subject to this act would need to comply with strict “Know Your Business Customer” requirements. Those who do not comply risk hefty fines. The European Council and European Parliament look to decide on this act mid-2022.
In Germany, internet gaming is facing increased limitations as a result of new legislation that took effect in 2021. Failure to provide robust age and identity verification will result in the rejection of new online gaming licenses or the imposition of fines of up to 500,000 euros and license revocation for existing operators.
In the United Kingdom, the Online Harms Bill calls for a “new era of accountability” for social media companies in order to protect children, among other things. Companies that fail to provide a safe environment would face fines of up to $24 million or 10% of global revenue, whichever is greater, as well as criminal sanctions against senior management.
In mid-2020, the French Parliament passed legislation requiring age verification for watching online pornographic. To protect those underaged from viewing this mature material, this legislation will penalize corporations who fail to comply with the law by applying fines and restrictions that may include their websites being blocked in France. Just recently, the French government threatened to block porn websites such as Pornhub and xHamster for failing to enforce more strict age verification measures.
While age verification is not a national legislative issue, other watchdog agencies have expressed concern about how easy it is for those underaged to access mature online content. While the Data Protection Law of 2018 states that content providers are responsible for ensuring proper age verification, this is not widely enforced. The National Agency for Data Protection issued a report in February 2020 expressing concern over the lack of “effective methods to verify the users are at least 18 years old.” While not recent legislation, awareness of the ease to access age-sensitive content is on the rise.
In mid-2021, Italy’s Data Protection Authority (DPA) required TikTok to confirm the age of its users. As a result, TikTok removed over 500,000 users either suspected of or actually being under the required age of 13. This investigation and subsequent removals were prompted by a ten-year-old girl dying after participating in a deadly challenge she saw on TikTok. The DPA continues its investigation and work with TikTok to ensure age restrictions are upheld.
Out of Date
In Europe and beyond, “age gates” have been used as a method of online age verification. Age gates often employ a text field that requires the prospective consumer to input their birth date or a simple checkbox that by simply ticking, affirms the customer is of legal age. Using an age gate is one way for websites to demonstrate that they are taking steps to keep their products and services out of the hands of those deemed too young. Additionally, as a benefit to the online enterprise, age gates are frequently regarded as a “low-cost, low-effort method of…protecting one’s assets.”
However, age gates are not the solid and indestructible barriers that their name implies. In fact, many find age gates pointless. Age gates function on the honor system. Due to the lack of penalty for lying or reward for honesty, the majority of people lie on age gates whether they need to or not.
While age gates are intended to act as a digital barrier to dissuade and keep underage individuals from accessing age-restricted goods and services, their efficacy has always been hazy at best.
Without a doubt, having an effective and solid age verification system has grown even more important for online businesses in Europe. Additionally, due to the complexity of global identification, which includes an array of personal naming practices, different types of government-issued identification, and access to third-party data, European online businesses require robust methods for verifying age and identification in general.
This begs the question: what can online companies in Europe do to better know their business customers? The answer lies in employing tech solutions to ensure compliance with legislation while also providing a secure and pleasant online experience for customers.
While businesses who are legally compelled to verify their customers’ identity and ages may not have an option about whether or not to comply, they most likely have a choice about the type of software they use. Companies such as Konfirmi provide simple-to-use and cost-effective methods for verifying a customer’s age and identity.
Businesses typically choose their products based on their cost, ease of installation, and consumer user experience. Applications such as Konfirmi take all of these aspects into account. Konfirmi can be quickly added to any website or app. Furthermore, Konfirmi complies with GDPR.
While age verification has been a concern in the European online space for many years, it is garnering increased attention in the wake of the explosion of online shops offering products and services that are intended for a more mature audience: e-cigarettes, online betting, mature video games, and pornography. With new European government legislations, online platforms in Europe need to enhance their age verification solutions now.