Facebook has confirmed that going forward it will require Instagram users to share their date of birth, in an effort to improve child safety.
The social network announced the move, saying it had “been clear that we want to do more to create safer, more private experiences for young people. 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.”
The requirement for people’s date of birth comes days before the UK begins enforcing the age appropriate design code, which requires companies to identify child users and take special effort to safeguard their personal data, limit attempts to alter their behaviour, and prioritise their wellbeing.
Facebook of course owns Instagram after it the purchased photo-sharing service in 2012, in a deal originally valued at $1 billion (£779m).
Facebook was clear that its latest move is designed to improve the online safety of children under 18 years old.
“This information allows us to create new safety features for young people, and helps ensure we provide the right experiences to the right age group,” said the social networking giant.
“Recent examples include changes we made in March to prevent adults from sending messages to people under 18 who don’t follow them, and last month we started to default new accounts belonging to people under the age of 16 into a private setting.”
Facebook said that doing this allows it “to restrict advertiser targeting options for audiences under the age of 18 to more people.”
Facebook also admitted it helps it show the user more relevant ads.
“This work began a few years ago when we started asking people for their birthday,” said Facebook. “While we have birthdays for most people on Instagram, to get a more complete picture we’re introducing two new changes. These changes only apply to people who haven’t already shared their birthday.”
“First, we’ll start to ask you for your birthday when you open Instagram,” it said. “We’ll show you a notification a handful of times and if you haven’t provided us with your birthday by a certain point, you’ll need to share it to continue using Instagram. This information is necessary for new features we’re developing to protect young people.”
“Second, if you see warning screens placed on posts, we’ll ask you for your birthday before you can see the post,” said Facebook. “These screens aren’t new, and we already show them on posts that may be sensitive or graphic, but we don’t currently ask for your birthday when viewing these posts. Now, we’ll start asking for your birthday on some of these screens if you haven’t shared it with us previously.”
Facebook said it recognised that some people may give it the wrong birthday, and said that it was developing new systems to address this, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to estimate how old people are.
“In the future, if someone tells us they’re above a certain age, and our technology tells us otherwise, we’ll show them a menu of options to verify their age,” said Facebook. “This work is still in the early stages, and we look forward to sharing more soon.”