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IMVU Age Verification ScreenshotIMVU quietly joined Second Life in offering age verification to its members over the weekend.

The process appears similar to Second Life’s (users submit some information from government documents online and the information is instantly matched to the user’s previously-provided name in a third-party database). IMVU currently only offers the service to U.S. members via an automated process, but does also offer to verify international customers if they fax or mail a copy of a government document showing the name on the account and the age of the account holder.

From IMVU’s page on verification:

Sometimes it’s not always easy for adults to chat with other adults, safely. Now, for just $9.95, you can purchase an Age Verification Token and connect with IMVU’s growing community of adults! Every avatar verified to be age 18 or older will receive a special badge as proof, making it easy to find others who are just like you!

IMVU says that its (unnamed) third-party verification provider has a 90% success rate matching data provided over the internet. Members who cannot be verified electronically are, like international members, required to fax a copy of a government document to IMVU, or mail it to IMVU’s Palo Alto headquarters.


On its surface, the purpose of verification appears to be to assure sellers of adult-oriented content that their customers are eighteen or over, and to assure people who use the service to make romantic connections that their partners are adults. Below the surface, there’s clear public relations value in the move, and verification provides some — though hardly complete — protection from lawsuits. In the event of a lawsuit, virtual world providers who deploy third-party age verification solutions can argue that blame and liability for errors should fall on the verification company, or on the user who gave fraudulent data to the verification company, rather than on the provider. Though they’ve not been made public, virtual world providers’ contracts with third-party verification companies likely include some form of an indemnification provision.

The problem with the legal argument, though, is that I’m not even sure what eventual lawsuit virtual world providers are supposedly protecting themselves against here — it isn’t like parents are lodging lawsuits in droves against internet porn companies who expose their little ones to adult images now, and they seem to be far higher-profile targets than virtual worlds. Moreover, any lawsuit against a verification company is obviously going to name the virtual world provider too, and getting two defendants to point fingers at each other is a plaintiff lawyer’s dream. From a legal perspective, the value of this move (which appears to be turning into a trend) seems incremental, at best.

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9 Responses to “IMVU Deploys Third-Party Age Verification Solution”

  1. on 24 Sep 2007 at 11:39 amCyn Vandeverre

    I’ve seen a few articles recently about real-life situations where an over-18 person was prosecuted for a consensual sexual situation with someone who was below the age of consent — but told the over-18 that they were “legal.”

    Makes me want to take a photocopy of the Driver’s License of any potential romantic liaison I might have, before anything even *starts* — I could see age verification protecting in-world participants in this way, not only the hosting company.

  2. on 24 Sep 2007 at 12:14 pmCyn Vandeverre

    I mistyped. The over-18 person was told by the under-18 person that the younger person was a legal adult (but wasn’t.)

  3. on 24 Sep 2007 at 6:40 pmJohn Carter McKnight

    I agree with your analysis (and I’m currently writing a paper on the subject ). It seems like a typical corporate response to hysteria – but without the hysteria.

    Very weak legally, and more likely to stir the media pot than downplaying the issue would. A strange legal and PR choice.

  4. on 24 Sep 2007 at 8:48 pmMagnum Serpentine

    No one has answered, if this is so good, then why does Social Security, And many state agencies refused to support it and they go further, they say do not give your number, Drivers license or SSN to anyone.

    Magnum Serpentine

  5. on 24 Sep 2007 at 11:11 pmBenjamin Duranske

    @4 – Good question. I don’t really say it is “good” (though the way Second Life is doing it with name/geographic location also being verifiable is definitely helpful for professionals) but I would note that I’m asked to give my drivers license and social security number to rent movies at Blockbuster or get a gym membership. For better or worse, it is a pretty common request at this point. Legally, like I pointed out above, I don’t think age verification really helps these companies very much in the long run — unlike Blockbuster, where it at least does allow them track me down if I steal their movies.

  6. on 25 Sep 2007 at 10:53 amMagnum Serpentine

    I believe Blockbuster and other companies are the ones that Social Security Administration is refering to… I get the feeling this is one of those things people do absent mindly give info and not think.

    SSN and State Agencies seem to be saying demand another form of indentification or don’t shop with them at all.

  7. on 25 Sep 2007 at 10:58 amBenjamin Duranske

    @3 John – I’d love to see a copy of the paper when you’re done with it.

  8. on 25 Sep 2007 at 3:05 pmJohn Carter McKnight

    @Benjamin – Will do!

  9. on 06 Jun 2010 at 4:01 pmAmanda Brown

    I had to buy mine for $16.00 and they want me to fax/mail my license. If they do that without giving me a warning, it makes me not want to trust them, and I cannot get a refund.

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