US ratings board suggests facial estimation for age checks

The ESRB has reportedly filed a new facial estimation proposal with the FTC.
system shock esrb facial recognition system

The US Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has reportedly filed a new proposal with the US Federal Trade Commission to gain approval for the use of facial estimation technology to age gate entertainment content.

The filing, surfaced by, claims that implementing facial estimation technology when purchasing entertainment – particularly, video games – will provide a way to better protect young kids from content they shouldn’t see.

The ‘Privacy-Protective Facial Age Estimation’, which has been developed in collaboration with identity tech firm Yoti and software company SuperAwesome, would reportedly ask players to verify their age before purchasing certain content. In the case of players being younger than the entertainment’s recommended age rating, a parent would need to scan their face to provide digital ‘consent’.

The verification process would include the user taking a photograph of themselves, before the AI-powered system spits out an age estimation, based on gathered data. Images would be permanently deleted once captured.

Per a Yoti representative, ‘Facial age estimation technology estimates a person’s age without identifying or recognising any individual. When estimating age, it doesn’t cross-check people against a big database of faces, it simply estimates the age of the image presented to it.’

Read: The UK Competition and Markets Authority is investigating AI

As PC Gamer points out, this system has the potential to be flawed. Per a recent study cited by the website, modern facial recognition technology still has a number of biases built in, particularly towards Asian and African American people who are reportedly ‘up to 100 times more likely to be incorrectly identified’ by the technology.

Relying on facial estimation to age gate purchased games and entertainment is complex. While the system is being described as optional, many questions linger about how and where it will be implemented in future.

The FTC is currently seeking public comment on the ESRB’s proposed restrictions. Anyone can now submit a response to the proposal, ahead of a 21 August 2023 cut-off date.

This article has been updated since its original publication to clarify the planned use of facial estimation technology.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.