Tencent Uses Facial Recognition to Ban Kids Gaming Past Bedtime

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In the latest bid to curb video-game addiction in China, tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. has launched a facial recognition system to stop minors gaming into the night. The initiative will prevent people under 18 from playing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The system, dubbed Midnight Patrol, is in place in more than 60 of Tencent’s games and includes popular titles like “Honor of Kings” and “Peacekeeper Elite,” the company said in a press release Tuesday.

The facial-recognition system will allow Tencent to thwart the tactics kids have developed to get around current age restrictions such as using their parents’ identities or devices. The system works by scanning the faces of players to check their age.

“Anyone who refuses or fails face verification will be treated as a minor, included in the anti-addiction supervision of Tencent’s game health system and kicked offline,” the company said. The new rules fall in line with regulations the Chinese government laid out in 2019 to curb video-game addiction.

Facial-recognition skeptics have raised concerns over data privacy in China. In 2017, Beijing announced a controversial policy requiring internet and service providers to force users to sign up with their real name. Critics said the move would increase the risk of possible security breaches and enhance the government’s ability to monitor citizens’ activities.

The use of facial-recognition technology in China isn’t new. The country has already deployed the technology in airports, subways and in the Western region of Xinjiang, where the population is heavily Muslim.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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