Video games may soon scan the faces of parents for age verification
Facial recognition is already used widely in today's world, but it is also widely accepted that the accuracy of the technology is lacking.
A proposal published by the US Federal Trade Commission and first reported by Eurogamer suggests that facial recognition could be used to obtain consent from parents when minors under the age of 13 are about to play games on a supported platform.
The core idea behind the proposal, which comes from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ERSB) handling age regulations of games in the United States and Canada, is to make sure that parental consent has been obtained properly under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA).
A system has been developed by the companies SuperAwesome, which is part of Epic Games and is specialized in online child safety technology, and Yoti, a digital ID platform.
In the United States and Canada, games and services have to obtain parental consent before they are allowed to collect personal information about children that are younger than 13 years of age.
The new technology, which the ERSB calls Privacy-Protective Facial Age Estimation, uses facial recognition to gain consent. This is done by scanning the face of a parent and estimating the age of the scanned face. The current proposal has set the age barrier of the parent to 25. If the facial recognition technology estimates the age below that threshold, that parent can't give consent for the child. The FTC is seeking public comments on the proposal.
The ERSB has clarified its position in a statement that it shared with Eurogamer after the initial article was published. According to it, the ERSB emphasizes that the technology is not designed to use facial recognition and age estimation to "prevent children from purchasing and/or downloading restrictively rated video games" and that the technology won't "take and store 'selfies' of users or attempt to confirm the identity of users".
Epic Games, which operates the PC gaming store Epic Games Store, supports several verification methods in many regions of the world already to verify parents. The Kids Web Services document lists face scan as one of the options. It is available worldwide, expect for the U.S. and South Korea, according to the document, and it is provided by Yoti.
Using facial recognition for gaining consent may look like a solid idea on first glance. It is quick, if it works, and if no data is saved other than a checkmark next to consent given, it might alleviate the fears of many parents.
Critics may argue that the technology is not accurate, that webcams and cams are not available everywhere, unless smartphone devices may be used, and that it is the responsibility of parents and not the gaming company or service provider to make sure that consent has been given.
Now You: what is your take on this? Would you use such a system?Advertisement