March has been an interesting month for age verification.
First, the conversations for using age verification in social networks are moving forward (and heating up!). In fact, last week IDology participated as a panelist in a congressional forum discussing age verification. This article, despite its headline, does a good job of summing up the issues and our responses. I think what has most people confused about “age verification” is the focus some have had on the challenges associated with identifying minors. What we really should be talking about is how age verification is able to distinguish between an adult and a minor, and how we need to be involving parents through education and allowing them to provide consent for their kids. And the white elephant in the room not being discussed is cost. Ecommerce businesses will need to consider age verification as an inherent cost of doing business similar to bricks and mortar companies.
As further proof of electronic age verification working in the wine industry, one large wine retailer in California received a letter from the State of Vermont commending them on their use of age verification which successfully stopped a minor attempting to purchase wine as part of a sting operation. However, some retailers shipping beer and wine to consumers in Iowa weren’t so fortunate during a media sting conducted by the Daily Iowan. Incidentally the retailers weren’t using an age verification system and the carrier didn’t check ID upon delivery. Now both the retailers and the carrier involved in this sting are being investigated for failing to comply with Iowa regulations.
Age verification did take a step back this month when the Philadelphia court announced its decision on COPA in the ACLU case related to protecting minors access to harmful content. While disappointing, this decision is not surprising and this case is probably now headed to the Supreme Court. So in this instance, I would say a battle has been lost, but the war is far from over.