Cracking the age-old age problem

White Paper reviews and previews age verification efforts online

In the next few years it will finally be possible to extend real-world age restrictions to the virtual world of the Internet. And it won’t be as bad as people fear. 

That’s the broad conclusion of a new White Paper by identity experts Innovate Identity, sponsored by the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR).

Innovate Identity looked at two very different systems in place in Germany and the UK – both aimed at limiting online activity by age. And it analysed a new survey that compares the views of those who have implemented age verification systems with those who are likely to come under pressure to do so.

The main disadvantage of virtual communication is one – you have no idea who is on the other side of the monitor. Yes, there are photos, but no one guarantees that the profile owner uploads his photos. The meeting may surprise you unpleasantly, not to mention the fact that a prankster, a scammer, or someone more dangerous may be UsaSexGuide Cincinnati hiding behind a beautiful photograph. And these are not all the pitfalls of blind correspondence. A photograph is in any case worse than a live contact. You don’t know when the photo was taken, you can’t see the person from other angles.

The paper also explores reactions from the adult content industry about developing its own age verification systems in light of different legislative efforts taking place across the globe.

Two different approaches

In Germany, a combination of specific legislation and the introduction of an electronic identity card has placed the onus on the end user to prove their age before gaining access to clearly defined online content; whereas in the UK – where national IDs are historically opposed – government pressure has led to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offering a blunt filtering approach for adult content and a healthy market in age verification software for online gambling companies.

Both approaches provide lessons that can be used to improve online age verification systems in the future as governments and end users continue to push for greater protections in cyberspace.

“We’ve been researching age verification standards and best practices  internationally for a number of years,” said one of the report’s author, Emma Lindley. “What is evident from this work is that the issues with age verification are not industry or geography specific.”

The paper highlights a number of key factors that will lead to an effective age verification system: cost, user experience, anonymity and privacy. Some will require future research.

The good news is that age verification is unlikely to prove as difficult or damaging as some fear. Of the individuals surveyed, a majority of those who adopted age verification systems (71 percent) were positive about them. Contrast that with an 84 percent negative view by of those who have not introduced such systems.

Confidence in such systems also jumps once people have introduced them: a confidence rating of 8.75 (in a 0-10 range with 10 being highest confidence) was measured in adopters. That falls to 4.5 in those who have not.


There are benefits to companies that introduce age verification systems, the paper found, including greater security, brand loyalty, fewer regulatory barriers and lower fraud.  The paper argues that a proactive and international self-regulatory approach to age verification is in the best interests of the industries it explored. 

“This white paper can help companies think about the challenges with age verification, as well as learn from other industries and gain some insight into potential long term benefits of such systems,” said IFFOR’s Executive Director, Kieren McCarthy. “We are pleased to have been able to contribute to this work through our grants program.”

You can download the white paper Age Verification Within The Internet Infrastructure at IFFOR website at


About Innovate Identity

Innovate Identity is an independent consultancy providing advisory services focused on digital trust, data and technology innovation.

This White Paper on age verification systems was made possible through a grant from the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR).


The International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing policies for Top Level Domains that maximize benefit to global Internet users, domain holders and domain registry operators.


Kieren McCarthy, Executive Director, IFFOR

Innovate Identity