German youth protection body endorses AI as biometric age-verification tool –

Three systems that verify people’s age with AI technology to prevent minors from being exposed to harmful content have been endorsed by Germany’s Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The commission is Germany’s central supervisory body for the protection of minors on private nationwide television and the internet.

These AI systems, which the body has given a positive rating, are trained by machine learning to assess a person’s age based on biometric characteristics.

“The fact that AI can now also be used for age verification and thus to protect children and young people from problematic content is an important, new step,” said the commission’s chairman, Marc Jan Eumann, in a press release last week (24 May )

According to Eumann, the use of AI in this area is a “milestone in the technical protection of children and young people in media.

Positive assessment

The supervisory body has now positively assessed three different AI systems for age verification. These are the “facial age estimation” software, as well as the “Age Verification” and the “Yoti” software, which are being examined as possible age verification systems.

As a kind of safety mechanism for children who look older than they are, the child protection authority has determined a five-year “buffer”.

“Individuals must be recognized by the system as being at least 23 in order to gain access to 18+ rated content,” it said.

Another control feature stipulates that age verification cannot simply be bypassed using still images.

The procedures for this auto-identification are being developed in constant consultation with regulators and security authorities, Rebekka Weiß, Head of Trust and Security at the digital association Bitkom, told EURACTIV.

“Digital identification has not only become much more efficient through such procedures but is also less prone to errors than human identification,” said Weiß.

Interstate treaty

According to the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media, to which Germany’s sixteen Bundeslander have agreed, youth-endangering content may only be distributed in telemedia if the provider can ensure only adults can access it.

Therefore, Germany’s youth protection body is encouraging companies to review their youth media protection strategies and ensure they comply with legal requirements.

Data protection

According to Maximilian Funke-Kaiser, digital policy spokesman of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the German Bundestag, it should not be forgotten that age verification and the processing of data ensure data protection.

The responsible handling of biometric data is all the more important when involving children and young people. “The processing of personal data requires a legal basis and consent declared by the person with parental authority,” Funke-Kaiser told EURACTIV.

According to him, data collected in the context of age verification may in no way be used for commercial purposes.

EU directive

In this context, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive obliges EU countries to take action to ensure adequate child protection since it entered into force in 2013.

This includes instruments for age verification which are supposed to be very strict, especially for pornography and violence.

According to the youth protection body, Germany has already made significant progress with its implementation, and other countries like France are also catching up.

[Edited by Oliver Noyan, Daniel Eck/Alice Taylor]

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