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Game Over: Chinese Company Deploys Facial Recognition to Limit Youths' Play

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A boy playing a game by Tencent during an event at a mall in Handan, China.

Chinese Internet conglomerate Tencent said this week it would deploy facial recognition technology in its video games to ensure those under 18 obey the government's cybercurfew.

Credit: China Stringer Network/Reuters

For almost every video game restriction, children and teenagers will find a way around it.

But the room to maneuver is shrinking in China, where underage players are required to log on using their real names and identification numbers as part of countrywide regulations aimed at limiting screen time and keeping internet addiction in check. In 2019, the country imposed a cybercurfew barring those under 18 from playing games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Recognizing that wily teenagers might try to use their parents' devices or identities to circumvent the restrictions, the Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent said this week that it would close the loophole by deploying facial recognition technology in its video games.

"Children, put your phones away and go to sleep," Tencent said in a statement on Tuesday when it officially introduced the features, called Midnight Patrol. The wider rollout set off a debate on Chinese internet platforms about the benefits and privacy risks of the technology.

From The New York Times
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