Instagram disables several filters for Texans

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Instagram’s parent company, Meta, has removed the ability to use several filters in Texas, citing the state’s facial recognition laws.

TYLER, Texas — **EDITOR’S NOTE — the video attached was produced in February 2021. The article has been updated to reflect a statement from the Communications team from Meta.

Instagram users in Texas might notice they are unable to access filters on Stories or posts starting Wednesday.

Filters are used on Instagram as an overlay on images to either enhance or change the original look of an image. As of May 11, Instagram’s parent company, Meta, has removed the ability to use some of these filters. Meta says this is due to Texas’ facial recognition laws.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, filed a lawsuit against Meta citing the company’s alleged misuse of their facial recognition technology. The lawsuit states companies like Meta cannot use Texans’ biometric information and keep it stored within their systems without their consent or knowledge beforehand.

Paxton says the reason filters break the Texas Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act is they learn a user’s face and can automatically tag or associate a person with an image, typically without the consent of the user being tagged.

As a result, any filters using facial geometry, like augmented reality filters, cannot be used within state lines. Filters that just change the image color or background are still usable or do not take users’ facial geometry are still allowed.

This ban on augmented reality filters is also taking place in Illinois. Illinois has a similar law to the CUBI Act in Texas, called the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Actmeaning the filters cannot be used within the state lines of Illinois, either. Toward the end of April 2022, Facebook settled a class action lawsuit for upwards of 1.4 million users in Illinois.

This lawsuit claimed Facebook “collected and stored biometric data of Facebook users in Illinois without proper notice or consent”, which is in violation of Illinois law with tag suggestions and other facial recognition technology. The settlement payments were starting to be mailed to residents who fit the definition of “Facebook users located in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored a face template after June 7, 2011.”

The Texas lawsuit against Facebook was filed in February 2022, so a settlement or decision has not been made. But the disabling of the filters in Texas and Illinois was done as a result of the settlement in Illinois.

A statement from the Communications team at Meta describes their reasons for the disabling of the filters in both Texas and Illinois:

“The technology we use to power augmented reality effects like avatars and filters is not facial recognition or any technology covered by the Texas and Illinois laws, and is not used to identify anyone. Nevertheless, we are taking this step to prevent meritless and distracting litigation under laws in these two states based on a mischaracterization of how our features work. We remain committed to delivering AR experiences that people love, and that a diverse roster of creators use to grow their businesses, without needless friction or confusion.”

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