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Tencent uses facial recognition to enforce China’s curfew on gaming kids

Accounts held in grown-ups’ names targeted if they stay up late

Chinese web giant Tencent has started using facial recognition tech to boot kids out of its games.

As explained in a post to Chinese social media service, the new feature sees the company check accounts registered in adults’ names if they are playing games between 10:00PM and 8:00AM.

The company will then run a facial recognition test and, if it identifies someone who is not the account holder, they’ll be booted offline.

“Anyone who refuses or fails face verification will be treated as a minor,” according to a machine translation of Tencent’s QQ post.

China limits the amount of time minors can spend gaming to 90 minutes a day and imposes a 10:00PM to 8:00AM curfew on underaged gamers – a policy motivated by worries that games are addictive, and a desire to have youth engage in more productive pursuits.

Tencent’s post doesn’t mention the curfew, instead framing its tech as a way to make sure kids get enough sleep. The company has also suggested the feature is only needed because some kids pinch their parents’ devices to keep gaming into the small hours. Tencent has also reminded customers that facial recognition is a feature it already uses for login and payments.

China has an uncomfortable relationship with games. The nation banned the sale and use of gaming consoles until 2014, controls which games can be published and sold within its borders, and does not permit any content that’s even remotely risqué. The review process for new games can often be very slow and the nation’s gaming sector is regarded as stunted as a result. It’s no accident: Beijing prefers its citizens to seek out other forms of entertainment.

And Tencent, which is the nation’s top gaming company, is helping that to happen.

Children who want to stay up late do have one tiny chance of escaping the ban: Tencent says its cloudy facial recognition code is 99.8 per cent accurate, so one kid in 500 might slip through the net if they look prematurely aged. Staying up all night playing games can help with that. ®

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