If you haven’t given Instagram your birthday, it’s about to start asking for it a whole lot more — and it’ll eventually be required for you to use the app. Instagram started requiring that new users add their birthdates in 2019, but if you had an older account, it was possible to skate by without providing that info. Now it seems that’ll become increasingly more difficult.
According to the press release, Instagram will ask you for your birthday when you open the app, if you haven't already added it to your profile. You’ll be able to ignore it, but only up to a certain point — eventually, Instagram says, you’ll have to add your birthday if you want to keep using the app. Instagram also says that if it doesn’t have your birthday, it’ll ask for it before showing you posts that are marked as sensitive. It’s been blurring sensitive content for years, but now if you want to see it, your birthday will have to be on file with Instagram.
The company says these efforts are part of its work to make the platform safer for young people. In May, the company formally announced that it’s working on a version of Instagram for people younger than 13 — a feature that would obviously require the platform to know people’s ages. It’s also been working on other age protections, like making it so adults couldn’t DM minors who weren’t following them or by making accounts for people younger than 16 private by default. Instagram’s birthday support page also says it uses it to moderate ads. (For instance, people under 21 won’t get ads for alcohol.)
The company says, in the future, it’ll use its age detection AI to sniff out people who are lying about their ages. In July, Facebook had a blog post about this tech, saying it was analyzing comments on your birthday posts, such as “happy 21st” or “happy Quinceañera.” According to its press release, if someone says they’re above a certain age like 13 or 18, but the AI says otherwise, Instagram will have them verify their age using a variety of methods (though it doesn’t say exactly what this will look like).
Social networks have long asked you for your birthday, but having them required speaks to the growing need to make sure that kids are safe online and the feeling of invasiveness that can come with that. Snapchat users recently got a taste of the strangeness that can come when social networks have information you might not remember handing over: they discovered that the app knew the time and location they were born because they had given the info to Snapchat’s astrological profile feature — and then seemingly forgot that they’d done so. For Instagram users, though, this likely won’t be an issue. It’s going to be hard to miss the birthday information requests.