Instagram disables several filters for Texans

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

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

Instagram users in Texas may notice that they cannot access filters on stories or posts starting Wednesday.

Filters are used on Instagram as an overlay on images to enhance or change the original look of an image. As of May 11, Instagram’s parent company, Meta, 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 court case against Meta citing the company’s alleged misuse of its facial recognition technology. The trial States companies like Meta cannot use Texans’ biometric information and store it in their systems without their consent or prior knowledge.

Paxton says the reason filters break the Law on the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifiers in Texas that is, they learn a user’s face and can automatically tag or associate a person with an image, usually without the tagged user’s consent.

Therefore, any filters using facial geometry, such as augmented reality filters, cannot be used in status lines. Filters that simply change the color or background of the image are still usable or don’t take users face geometry are still allowed.

This ban on augmented reality filters is also taking place in Illinois. Illinois has a law similar to Texas’s CUBI law, called the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which means the filters also cannot be used within the state limits of Illinois. Towards the end of April 2022, Facebook settled a class action for over 1.4 million users in Illinois.

That lawsuit alleged that Facebook “collected and stored biometric data from Facebook users in Illinois without notice or consent,” which violates Illinois law with suggested beacons and other facial recognition technologies. Settlement payments were beginning to be mailed to residents who met 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 filters in Texas and Illinois was done as a result of the settlement in Illinois.

A statement from Meta’s communications team outlines the reasons for disabling filters in 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 laws of Texas and Illinois, and is not used to identify who whether it be. Nonetheless, we are taking this step to avoid frivolous and distracting litigation under the laws of these two states based on misinterpretation of how our features work. We remain committed to delivering AR experiences that people love and that a diverse list of creators use to grow their businesses, without unnecessary friction or confusion.

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