Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A third-party company called Yoti built an artificial intelligence tool that estimates how old you are by scanning your face.

The company made little effort to enforce the rule that you have to be 13 years old to sign up for an account. It didn't bother to ask new users their birth date until 2019. After being raked over the coals by privacy and child safety experts, Instagram has introduced more and more age-verification features.

Users can ask friends to verify their age, or have their face scanned by AI

When teenagers try to change their birth date to show they're 18 or older, they're not asked to verify their age on social media. In order to verify their age, users can send in pictures of their ID cards, and from today, users in the US will have two additional options: social vouching and artificial intelligence estimation.

Three mutual followers of the user will be asked to confirm how old they are. Three days will be given for the mutual followers to respond to the request. A third-party company called Yoti uses machine learning to estimate a person's age using a video selfie.

Yoti's technology has been approved for use by the UK government and German digital regulators. A target's age is estimated using various facial signals. The company doesn't know what signals they are talking about. What do you think about Wrinkles? There is a look of sadness. All is in the mix.

You can try Yoti's system on the web, and see its accuracy rates below. Yoti has an error rate for different age ranges, skin tones, and genders.

Yoti’s data shows its technology performs slightly worse on female subjects and faces with darker skin tones.
Image: Yoti

Yoti's estimates can be off by up to 2.5 years for people under the age of 24. The tool makes a broad guess about a user's age. A 2020 analysis of Yoti's system by a third-party nonprofit found that it was 98.89 percent reliable at guessing if someone was over or under the age of 25. For every 1,000 guesses the system would make at least one mistake.

It is not clear if the system is secure enough for this purpose. We were able to fool Yoti by showing her photos in front of our camera. It is not clear what can be done to stop a child from doing the same thing.

This isn't the only tool that uses artificial intelligence to estimate users' ages. The company has been using automated systems to find people under the age of 18. Birthday posts and friendship groups are scanned by these tools. If a user claims to be 20 but posts about celebrating their 17th birthday, their account will be flagged and they might have to verify their age. A language-analysis tool is being tested to determine if a user is an adult or a teen based on their writing.