AI-generated fake IDs could thwart age verification laws

A new AI-powered web tool appears tailor-made to help teenagers bypass online age verification laws and shows the futility of trying to set a minimum age for social media use.

In the old days, bypassing the minimum age requirement actually meant having a physical ID to declare that you were of age. But with online age verification, all you might need is a picture of that ID.

Enter OnlyFake, a website that uses AI technology to generate images of fake IDs at low cost.

“OnlyFake claims to use ‘neural networks’ to generate realistic-looking photos of fake IDs for just $15,” he reported 404 vehicles earlier this week:

In our tests, OnlyFake created a highly convincing California driver’s license, complete with any arbitrary name, biographical information, address, expiration date, and signature we wanted. The photo even gives the impression that the ID is resting on a soft carpet, as if someone had placed it on the floor and taken a photo, which many sites require for verification purposes.

The OnlyFake site disappeared (for now) after the 404 vehicles relationship. But it definitely won’t be the last service to offer fake digital IDs.

Carding people to use the Web

Measures to require people to prove their age before using social media or viewing porn platforms have hit US state authorities in recent times. Some have already passed and a seemingly endless stream is in the works. The idea is also gaining traction among federal lawmakers.

These measures tend not to say right As tech companies need to verify the age of users. But the simplest way, and therefore the one most likely to be put into practice, is to require users to upload an image of their driver’s license (or other government-issued ID) directly to the technology platform or via a third-party verification. place.

Supporters of online age verification laws say they are needed to prevent teenagers and children from using social media or viewing adult content. But even if you agree with this goal in theory, its implementation comes with some serious problems.

For one thing, rules requiring people to attach their real IDs to their social media accounts and other online activity would represent a serious invasion of privacy for both adults and minors. It could expose us all to hackers, pranksters, identity thieves, and government harassment. Gone would be the days when anyone could be truly or even nominally anonymous online.

Some argue that these trade-offs are worth making to prevent children from having free rein in the digital sphere. But would age control laws achieve their stated goals?

The existence of sites like OnlyFake suggests they wouldn’t. By using it, any teenager with $15 could potentially thwart an ID check from a social media or pornographic platform.

Outsmarting the age control regime

Of course, currently people can produce images of fake documents with photo editing tools such as Adobe Photoshop. But artificial intelligence promises to make the task easier and faster and, perhaps, produce better results. What was once a painstaking process requiring some technical expertise could soon be easily accomplished by anyone using the right AI tool.

Tech companies that do age checks could take measures designed to discourage fakes, such as requiring people to send a photo of themselves holding their ID. But AI-powered services could in turn generate fake photos of someone holding a fake ID. And as AI tools inevitably improve, they will only look more realistic.

There are perhaps some metadata verification techniques that could be used here. But, to some extent, metadata can also be manipulated.

Some age-control measures, like the one passed last year in Utah, would require parental approval for minors to create social media accounts. But children have always bypassed parental approval requirements in the non-digital world. It’s hard to imagine that this online approval couldn’t also be faked with the right tools.

Large AI-based image generation platforms could put systems in place to prevent them from being used to generate fake images. (For example, Instagram’s AI service, which generates new images from user-uploaded images using user-entered keywords, said it couldn’t generate an image when my message was “Fake ID.”) But other services underground companies, like OnlyFake, can always step in to fill this void.

Ever more elaborate verification?

Tech companies (or the third-party verification services they rely on) could avoid the problem of fake documents by employing services that essentially run background checks on all users.

But the more elaborate the identity checks required, the more costs these companies will incur and the longer it will take. And most tech companies will want to do the bare minimum to comply with any relevant laws, without going further to exclude more users from their platforms.

Perhaps if fake IDs are perceived as a big enough problem – and the penalties for not finding them are severe enough – we will really see elaborate identity checking efforts start to take off.

So will the crowd that keeps kids off social media be happy? Will young people be better off?

I doubt it. Even if they are teenagers I’m not able to get around age verification laws – and even if we accept that social media could be harmful to them (something far from obvious) – we are looking at a serious potential for unintended consequences.

Because teenagers Want find alternatives, and these may actually be riskier or more likely to encourage the behaviors that people worry about. It’s crazy to think that young people are just going to say, “Well, I can’t make a TikTok account, so I guess I’ll just go walk around the mall like it’s the ’80s.”

They will simply use platforms that technically fall outside the scope of social media, such as chat services or private web forums – heck, even Google Docs would work. Or they will visit websites and sign up for apps based in countries without age controls. And all of this will make monitoring what’s happening — and countering any dangerous trends or things like bullying — more difficult, while also making it less likely that places where teens view or create content will respond to U.S. authorities.

The truth is that young people have long fought laws about the minimum age to buy beer, watch R-rated movies, and all sorts of other things. In some ways, technology has made this more difficult, with things like state-specific holograms and laser embossing making driver’s licenses less easy to fake than they once were. Yet technology has also provided all sorts of new tools for forging realistic identity documents, particularly if these documents are not intended to be examined in physical form.

All the hype about the power of AI may be overstated, but its potential to create realistic-looking images is undeniable. Score one for the 16 year old who just wants to post memes online.

Today’s image

Instagram generated image of my son in space. Instagram refused to produce an image for him when I typed “fake ID”. (ENB/Instagram)

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