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Legal and privacy experts in India have criticized Instagram’s new feature that requires documents from users for age verification. On Thursday, Meta expanded its age verification trial for Instagram users to India and Brazil. So far, this feature has only been available in the US.
Instagram now gives users three options to verify their age – upload an ID, upload a selfie video, or ask a friend to verify. This feature applies to users under the age of 18 when they update their date of birth on the platform. “Verified accounts can be a safety net, but requiring social media users to present IDs that contain not only personal but sensitive personal information is certainly not a welcome move. More so when there are clear loopholes in the law with regard to the security of such data,” said N.S. Nappinai, Supreme Court lawyer and founder of Cyber Saathi.
According to Meta, the company is testing these verification methods to ensure that teens and adults have the right experience for their age group. The social media company said it has partnered with online age verification company Yoti to ensure user privacy. Most social media platforms, including Instagram, require users to be at least 13 years old to create an account. However, in some countries the legal minimum age is higher. In this case, users aged 13-17 are provided with an age-appropriate experience that includes prevention of unwanted contact by adults and limiting the reach of advertisers. deletion of age verification measures after 30 days; it is not certain that other platforms will incorporate similar practices as they would be interested in keeping records that would allow ongoing verification in the event of an investigation against them to absolve themselves of liability,” warned Trishee Goyal, researcher at the Vidhi Center for Legal. Policy.
Under Rule 4(7) of the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Code of Conduct) Rules, 2021, major social media intermediaries are required to allow users who register for their services from India to voluntarily verify their accounts through an appropriate mechanism that may be an active Indian mobile number.
Rishi Anand, legal partner at DSK Legal, said India has no law mandating the use of government identification for verification when using a social media platform. “What Meta is doing with Instagram is probably in line with how the company is looking at how social media regulations may evolve from the first future. But it’s too early to say it’s happening,” Anand said. Goyal said the way age verification is done can itself be riddled with problems. One of the main challenges, she says, is finding “the balance between reliably verifying age and avoid the data maximization approach.”
“Using official IDs for verification may cause children who want to access social media support communities anonymously, such as sexual minorities or those experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault, to withdraw from these support communities for fear of compromising their anonymity, she said. .
Privacy experts have also said that asking users to upload a selfie video is a violation of privacy. “Users share their photos or videos on social media because they want to, not because they’re forced to,” Nappinai said, warning that mutual friend verification will also help platforms connect and track users.