Chinese gaming giant Tencent has announced facial recognition technology to prevent children from playing games late at night. The company said that it will scan the faces of gamers late at night in order to discourage kids from joining online battles using the identity of someone else. The company has termed this scheme as ‘midnight patrol.’ Under this, the company has made scanning of faces of players mandatory from 10 pm to 8 am. So those who want to online midnight online games such as Game for Peace and Honor of Kings will have to get their faces scanned, the company said in a statement. China has a strict policy regarding games under which all gamers are required to have accounts under their real identities. Also, kids are subject to strict addiction prevention rules. Some of the big gaming giants have already banned minors from participating in online late-night games. Also, they have capped the time these kids can spend playing games. While during weekdays they are allowed to spend 1.5 hours, this increases to three hours on public holidays.
Tencent said that it was found that some kids managed to circumvent these rules by using accounts of adults. The world’s largest gaming company said that facial recognition is aimed at making sure that players playing late-night are indeed adults. The company said that players will be denied access to the game and treated as minors if players fail to pass the face recognition test during late night and early morning hours. Tech giants of the country have been under pressure from regulators to impose strict regulations on users. They have faced massive antitrust fines over issues related to national security investigations. One of the things that they have been asked is to make sure that kids or underage users are prevented from spending a lot of time and money on online platforms like mobile games, live-streaming sites, and short video platforms like TikTok. In response to this, social media companies and gaming giants started identifying underage users. Companies developed algorithms for that and started providing such users with educational content instead of gossips. Companies are also stepping up measures to screen times spent by minors. Tencent has been using Chinese IDs for years along with some other majors to curb gaming addiction. But facial recognition will help them to strictly implement its age restriction rules.
Tencent said that it has been trailing its facial recognition system since 2018. For example, it has been using it in cases when a user above the age of 60 years spends more than USD 154 or 1,000 Chinese Yuan. The facial data is then matched with the police database to verify the identity of the users. According to the company, an average of 5.8 million players were asked to very themselves through facial recognition every day. More faces will be screened under the ‘midnight patrol’ scheme of the company. But at the same time, people have privacy concerns. Internet users in China are wary of these technologies but many of them feel that there is little they can do about it. Especially when these technologies are ubiquitous and are often used by payment apps and even during the Covid-19 control programs. Despite these measures, there are instances when children managed to fool the technology in order to play games. More importantly, they managed to play games anytime and for as long as they wanted to. Earlier, nine people were arrested by police in the southern province of Guangdong for helping kids pass facial scans. They allegedly made a huge amount of by doing so. Police said that the gang used the identity of people to create animations with the help of some software. The gang then altered camera software to pass clear the facial scans.