FTC rules against ESRB's Facial Age Estimation tech for video games

Federal Trade Commission recently put a halt on ESRB's facial age verification system for children playing M rated or inappropriate video games

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US have dismissed ESRB’s plan to use a new age verification system for video games using Facial Age Estimation technology. The rating board planned to use this to identify player age for Mature rated games.

ESRB initial announcement of their interest in using facial scanning for gamers already came out as very controversial. While the board did claim that the technology will be used for verification purposes and no data will be stored, people are not convinced and raising privacy issues.

Yoti, ESRB’s partner in this project, have submitted the facial recognition tech to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) last year. However, there has been evaluation results. This was also an important factor in FTC’s ruling.

“After receiving more than 350 comments, the Commission voted 4-0 to deny the application without prejudice to the applicants filing in the future, when the Commission anticipates that additional information will be available to assist the Commission and the public in better understanding age verification technologies and the application,” the FTC said in its ruling.

What is a rating board?

Video games are becoming more popular by day. A majority of people play it to relax or as a hobby, while other play for making a living. These include streamers and professional players. However, a video games sometime come with some disturbing or inappropriate content.

This is where the rating boards come in. There are multiple rating boards across countries like ESRB, PEGI. These provide the rating for games according to their content, telling people the appropriate age the game is meant for. Different rating boards can also have slightly different age ratings for the same game.

However, these rating are almost always ignored, especially in this digital age. For example, horror games with gore and explicit scenes are usually rated M, despite that, many young kids often play these games. As for esports titles, these are usually meant for teenagers but can have 18+ ratings, but that does not stop them from playing the games.