In an attempt to make sure that web users can only access sites that are suitable for their age group, CitizenCard, an independent identity card scheme, has launched interactiveAgeCheck (iAC) today.

The project aims to provide ISPs with a way of verifying the identity of those who visit age-specific websites — for example, for gambling, to view adult content or participate in teen and child chat groups.

"It's not on for age-specific websites not to check that their visitors are who they say they are. Sites that allow teenagers to gamble or adults to chat on teenage forums are out of order. Now we are providing them with a way to act responsibly," explains CitizenCard boss Andrew Chevis.

The scheme, which is backed by the government, works in two ways. To ensure that sites stay adult-only, it will automatically check the details you have entered to register with a website against those held in Experian's database. Credit control agency Experian has the details, including date of birth, for almost one third of the UK's adult population, according to Chevis.

Children, whose details will not be held on a credit database, must apply for a CitizenCard photo ID before they will be able to access sites protected by the iAC scheme. Chevis says this process shouldn't take more than one working day to complete. To verify that children really are who they say they are, CitizenCard will check their identity with their school or, if this isn't possible, with another reputable third party like a doctor.

To reassure those with privacy concerns, Chevis is quick to point out that this is not a ploy to introduce ID cards by the back door, and neither the government nor the police have access to the information held on the CitizenCard database. "This is an entirely voluntary ID card service," he explains.

So far only two websites have joined up for the scheme — Ladbrokes' betting site and teenage chat site Habbo, but CitizenCard is pushing hard to get more sites to take part. It is currently working with online gambling organisations to encourage their members to join, and Chevis said that those sites that refused to sign up would be named and shamed and might even be denied a licence.

The scheme costs websites around £200 to join, while CitizenCards are free for under 18s and £7 for adults.