If the days when you could count on getting regularly carded have long since passed, there’s one place where you might still pass for under the legal drinking age: the internet. If you’ve ever found yourself on the website for an alcoholic beverage, you know that it usually prompts you to enter your full birthdate to prove that you’re at least 21 years old.
Much like your fake ID in college, the date you enter might not be anywhere near your actual date of birth. I know when I encounter these sites, sometimes I put in my correct birthdate, because it’s the first thing that comes to mind, but other times I end up choosing any old date that puts me firmly in the over-21 camp just to speed up the process. Since anyone can do this, what’s to stop underage people from doing the same and gaining access to the site?
Of course, the answer is nothing. In fact, despite the ubiquity of the practice, there’s no law requiring alcohol companies to verify a user’s age before granting them access. Instead, the companies do it voluntarily to appease those that feel that the less young people know about, and are exposed to, information about alcohol, the better.
“These proponents believe that the less youth know about or are exposed to alcohol subject matters, the less that youth are harmed by alcohol,” Marvin Cable, a practicing attorney and part-time lecturer in internet law and policy at the University of Massachusetts, told the Huffington Post. “But this belief is heavily debatable.”
Competing ideologies posit that education about alcohol can actually help young people learn to use it responsibly. According to AlcoholProblems&Solutions.org, a nonprofit website dedicated to debunking myths and sharing effective peer-reviewed ways to reduce drinking problems and live healthier, abstinence-only alcohol education programs are unrealistic and can have counterintuitive effects.
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The organization cites a study of the effectiveness of alcohol-education programs that showed that those that emphasize responsible alcohol use are more successful than those that follow an abstinence-only approach.
When it comes to actually attempting to purchase booze online, that’s a trickier subject. All states that allow consumers to purchase alcoholic beverages online require that the delivery is made in person, at which time the buyer must show a valid ID to prove their age and sign for the package.
Some states also require that companies selling liquor online make an effort to verify age at the point of purchase, by having customers email a scanned ID or using a third-party service to verify age, such as LexisNexis or IDology, which utilize public information to verify that a customer’s name and address corresponds to an individual of legal drinking age.
The next frontier in virtual bouncers is Blockchain technology. Last year, Civic, a Blockchain technology-based identity app, partnered with Anheuser-Busch InBev to dispense beer from a Blockchain-enabled vending machine in the United States. Customers can scan a QR code with the app to verify their age and get a can of beer.
“This is the first proper use case for identity on the Blockchain,” Vinny Lingham, Civic founder and CEO, told Forbes at the EOH Connect Conference 2018. “This is a very basic use case, but you can buy a can of beer.”
[h/t: Huffington Post]