ESRB Wants to Use Facial Recognition to Age Check Access to Video Games

Highlights

  • The ESRB submitted a proposal to the FTC suggesting the use of facial recognition technology to block minors from accessing mature-rated video games.
  • Underage gamers would be unable to play games rated Mature by the ESRB if the proposal is accepted, as facial recognition checks would be used to restrict their access.
  • While there are concerns about the precision of the facial recognition technology and the potential misuse of captured image information, the ESRB believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board, or ESRB, appears to be looking at ways to leverage real-time facial recognition technology to allow gamers access to mature-rated video games. The ESRB’s proposition was recently sent to the Federal Trade Commission for green lighting, and the relevant document includes a fairly in-depth overview of how the technology would work in practice.

As the ESRB is essentially ubiquitous when it comes to rating games on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as in AAA PC gaming, any real-time recognition technology would need to either be extremely forward-looking or have a way of using existing hardware in a fairly inventive manner. Regardless, the fact is that the FTC is now considering the ESRB’s proposal, and the details of the document may prove troubling to some.

GamesIndustry.biz spotted that the ESRB submitted a proposal to the FTC in collaboration with SuperAwesome, an Epic Games subsidiary, and Yoti, a firm that specializes in digital identity solutions, citing the possibility of using facial recognition technology to block minors from accessing mature-rated media. According to the proposal, Yoti and SuperAwesome’s Privacy-Protective Facial Age Estimation tech can accurately determine a person’s age, thus making sure that the ESRB’s ratings could no longer be ignored or side-stepped in a meaningful way.

What the proposal would mean, in effect, is that underage gamers could no longer play any games rated Mature by the ESRB, blocking them from accessing the titles following a facial recognition checkup. The proposal also claims that, even though the system would upload facial recognition pics to Yoti’s servers, the files would “immediately, permanently” be deleted and wouldn’t be used to train Yoti’s algorithm.

The best Teen-rated RPG titles would, should the ESRB’s proposal be accepted, be readily accessible to any gamer that Yoti thinks is teenaged or older, which may sound fine on paper, but there are plenty of concerns to be had here. Not only is there no telling how precise Yoti’s proprietary face recognition technology is, but there’s also no way of knowing whether the captured image information wouldn’t be used for malicious purposes. Regardless, the ESRB claims that any potential risks are “easily outweighed by the benefits to consumers and businesses.”

While ESRB ratings have historically been used as curiosities that reveal certain aspects of games well ahead of their release, as was the case with Starfield‘s romantic encounter descriptions, the ratings board seems to have a much more hands-on idea of what its future purpose should be. Whether the FTC accepts the featured proposal remains to be seen.

Source: FTC (via GamesIndustry.biz)

Source: Gamerant

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