Texans can no longer use certain Instagram filters due to facial recognition lawsuit

Certain filters on Instagram are no longer available in Texas thanks to a lawsuit about facial recognition, according to media reports.

In February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he was suing Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, saying the company unlawfully collected biometric data for commercial purposes, without users’ informed consent.

Paxton said that by people using the filters, Meta has been “storing millions of biometric identifiers” — such as retina or iris scans, voice prints, or a record of hand and face geometry.

As a result, Meta told KXAN that, though it denies claims made in the lawsuit, those filters that use augmented reality will no longer be available to users in Texas as of Wednesday. However, filters that only change the color or background of the image are still allowed.

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The change also affects users in Illinois based on its Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Meta sent the following statement to KXAN:

“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.”

Under Texas law, the lawsuit says, companies must obtain “informed consent” from people to use their biometric data. This means people have to be informed before their biometric data is captured and it can only be done if they agree to it. Such data also cannot be disclosed for anyone else, although there are some exceptions, such as law enforcement subpoenas.

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In a statement after the lawsuit was announced, Meta Platforms Inc., which is based in Melo Park, California, called the lawsuit “without merit.”

The company said in November that it was shutting down its facial recognition program and deleting its data.

Texas is asking the court to fine Target $25,000 for each violation of the informed consent rule and $10,000 for each violation of the state’s deceptive trade practices act.

Meta, then called Facebook, paid $650 million to settle a similar lawsuit over photo the use of photo face-tagging and other biometric data in Illinois last year.

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