Instagram’s New AI is the Common Creep Tech that Happily Invades Your Privacy
Instagram is using AI to unravel the users’ ages and here’s why it is an extremely creepy technology
Instagram is testing new ways to verify its youngest users’ ages, by including artificial intelligence that analyzes a photo and estimates how old the user is. Meta-owned Instagram said in a blog post on Thursday that AI is one of three new methods it’s testing to verify users’ ages on the photo-sharing site. Users will be required to use one of the options to verify their age if they edit their birth date on Instagram from under the age of 18 to over 18. Instagram is testing these options first with its users in the United States. It already requires users to state their age when they start using the service and employs AI in other ways to determine if users are kids or adults. The move is part of an ongoing push to make sure the photo-sharing app’s youngest users see content that is age-appropriate. It comes less than a year after disclosures from a Facebook whistleblower raised concerns about the platform’s impact on younger users. Last year, Instagram came under fire when documents leaked by the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, showed that it was aware of how the social media site can damage mental health and body image, particularly among teenage girls.
The technology comes from a London-based company called Yoti. An animated video that Instagram posted to its blog gives a sense of how Yoti’s AI age-estimation works: a user is directed to take a video selfie on their smartphone (Yoti said this step serves as a way to make sure a real person is in the resulting image), and Instagram shares an image from that selfie with the company. Yoti’s AI-driven algorithm detects that there is a face in the picture and then scrutinizes its facial features to determine the person’s age. Julie Dawson, Yoti’s chief policy and regulatory officer, told CNN Business that its AI was trained with a dataset made up of images of people’s faces along with the year and month that the person was born.
The recent documentation from Yoti indicates its technology is, on average, slightly less accurate at estimating the ages of kids who are between 13 to 17 and have darker skin tones than those with lighter skin tones. According to Yoti’s data, its age estimate was off, on average, by 1.91 years for females ages 13 to 17 whose skin tones were categorized as the two darkest shades on the Fitzpatrick scale, a six-shade scale that’s commonly used by tech companies to classify colors of the skin versus an average error of 1.41 years for females in the same age group whose skin tones were the two lightest shades on the scale. For kids between the ages of 13 to 17, the technology’s estimate of how old they are was off by 1.56 years, on average, according to the document.