With facial recognition they will prevent children from playing video games at night

In recent years, various studies have shown that video games develop skills in children and, if appropriate for their age, can help them in terms of concentration and even tolerance for frustration. However, like everything else, its use in excess can be harmful, especially for the little ones. And since they are convinced in China that the best way to avoid a behavior is to ban it, the Tencent company is implementing a facial recognition system to prevent people under 18 from playing video games at night.


The first thing to explain is that, in 2019, the government of the Asian country approved a law that prohibits minors from using video games between 10 at night and 8 in the morning because, they say, they cause myopia, lack of sleep, and poor academic performance among young people.


However, unsurprisingly, young people have found a way around that rule. So the authorities are tightening the measures, hand in hand with companies like Tencent.


For example, underage players are required to log in with their real names and identification numbers as part of national regulations aimed at limiting their screen time and keeping internet addiction under control.


Considering that astute teens could try to use their parents' devices or identities to circumvent the restrictions, Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent said it would eliminate that possibility by implementing facial recognition technology in its video games. Kids, put your phones away and go to sleep, Tencent said in a statement when it officially unveiled the features called Midnight Patrol.


Tencent claimed that it began testing facial recognition technology last April to verify the ages of late-night gamers and has since used it in 60 of its games. Just last June its system registered an average of 5.8 million users a day who showed their face when logging in, which blocked access to their accounts to more than 90% of those who rejected or failed the facial verification.


The reactions


Although it is a law and the private company is only looking for a way to enforce it, its action generated a debate on Chinese internet platforms about the benefits and risks of privacy when using facial recognition.


Although some were in favor of its implementation since they consider that the fight against internet addiction among adolescents will be more effective, they also questioned how the data would be transmitted to the authorities.


Still, others commented that Tencent was taking an overly paternalistic role. "This kind of thing should be done by parents, wrote a user named Qian Mo Chanter on Zhihu, a Chinese social network.


And it is that for a long time thousands of Internet users have already complained about the tightening of controls and the increasingly reduced space for anonymity in cyberspace. A hashtag on Weibo, a microblogging platform, reminded gamers to make sure they are fully clothed in case the camera captured more than their faces.


Also, some users have expressed that they prefer to remove any video game that requires facial recognition rather than putting their privacy at risk. "I don't trust any of this software," wrote one programmer.


If privacy concerns had already been raised when the real-name registration requirement for minors was introduced in 2019, now with the use of facial recognition technology the debate has grown. As an example, the China Security and Protection Industry Association, a government-linked trade group, said in a document published last year that the massive collection of personal data could result in security breaches.


Still, it should be noted that facial recognition technology is commonly used in China to facilitate daily activities and regulate public behavior. Hotels use it when checking in guests, while banks use it to verify payments. The state uses it to track down criminal suspects. One city has even implemented the technology to shame its residents for the habit of wearing pajamas in public.

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