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The Real Reason This Game Company Is Scanning Kids' Faces

If you've ever defensively plastered a sticker over your webcam, you understand the unsettling worry of being watched while gaming or surfing the web. Now, Chinese tech company Tencent has pushed those kinds of privacy fears much further by launching actual facial recognition technology. The goal is limiting screen time for kids and teens, which the country blames for issues like poor school performance and nearsightedness. If you're a gamer who sneaked in some playtime after bedtime when you were younger, imagine not only risking being caught by your parents, but by the company distributing the games.


According to The New York Times, Tencent's new "Midnight Patrol" initiative is an effort to enforce China's national "cybercurfew" that prohibits anyone younger than 18 from gaming anytime from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Since a set of rules introduced in 2019 has already restricted minors to 90 minutes of gaming on weekdays, this new technology hopes to keep players from using their parent's accounts or otherwise working around the rules. 

Not only are young players still required to provide their government names and ID numbers to access games, but players of all ages will now have to pass face scans during the strict 10-hour time period in order to play Tencent games.

Facing the Facts

Naturally, people have mixed opinions on this heavy-handed regulation method. While some people are hopeful that this technology could help limit screen time for children and even curb the possibility of video game addiction that affects a minority of players, others have find the concept appalling. Those unhappy with the technology are concerned about data privacy and find the methods overly controlling and punitive. According to the South China Morning Post, even the China Security and Protection Industry Association has spoken out about the dangerous implications of facial recognition technology.


Though this technology is clearly impactful to kids and teens who take part in gaming after 10 p.m. and before 8 a.m., it's no big deal since it only affects games from one company, right? Wrong. As it turns out, Tencent completely dominates the Chinese gaming market and has significant international gaming business holdings. In the first six months of 2020, Tencent controlled 50% of the market share in the Chinese gaming industry, according to Sixth Tone. Some of the games that Tencent has to its name include mega popular titles like "Fortnite" and "Honor of Kings."