Instagram requires date of birth from all users as new child safety rules loom

·2-min read

Instagram will require all users to provide their date of birth as part of new safety measures to boost child protection.

The rule comes just days before tech giants must conform to greater safeguards introduced by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which has already pushed Google and TikTok to make changes.

Since December 2019, new account holders have been asked to provide their birth date during set-up but now existing users will be compelled to do the same.

A notification that can be dismissed will appear a “handful of times” when opening the app at first, before a full-screen prompt will make it impossible to access the service without entering details.

Addressing concerns that children would lie about their age, Instagram said it is developing systems, such as using artificial intelligence to estimate how old people are, based on birthday posts.

The social media platform does not allow anyone under the age of 13 to join.

“We’ve been clear that we want to do more to create safer, more private experiences for young people,” said Pavni Diwanji, vice president of youth products at Facebook.

“To do that we need to know how old everybody is on Instagram, so we’ve started asking people to share their birthday with us if they haven’t shared it previously.”

Google recently announced a raft of privacy changes for children who use its search engine and YouTube platform, while TikTok said it is limiting the direct messaging abilities of accounts belonging to 16 and 17-year-olds.

The deadline for complying with the ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code ends on September 2, which comprises of 15 standards that digital firms must uphold.

These include having high privacy settings as the default for children, as well as switching off geolocation tracking features, profiling and nudge techniques.

Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC charity, said: “This announcement has clearly come in response to the Children’s Code coming into force this week.

“This shows that regulation works because it is having an obvious impact on Facebook’s design choices.

“Our data shows that Instagram is consistently the most common platform used by abusers to groom children, so it is positive that they are bringing about these changes, but they haven’t provided any substantive information that explains how they will work and be effective.

“This highlights how important it is for the new regulation to be backed up by an ambitious Online Safety Bill that comprehensively tackles child sexual abuse.

“Together they have the potential to fundamentally change how companies design their sites so they truly become safe spaces for children.”

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