Why Are Filters Banned in Texas?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Over the past few months, social media users in Texas noticed that some filters were unavailable on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. This led many to ask: Why are filters banned in Texas?

What Are Filters on Social Media?

Before diving into why certain filters are restricted in Texas, let’s first look at what filters are on social media apps.

Filters on apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok allow users to alter their photos and videos in various ways before sharing. There are several common types of filters:

Color Filters

These filters change the color tones, saturation, brightness, contrast, and more to give photos a certain aesthetic. For example, black and white, vintage, boosted warm tones, etc.

Overlay Filters

These filters overlay graphics, stickers, or text onto photos and videos. Some examples are filters with the time, weather, location, etc.

Face Filters

Augmented reality (AR) face filters use special effects to alter a person’s face or facial features. These can add accessories like glasses, hats, makeup, animal features, and more.

Body Filters

Similar to face filters, AR body filters alter a person’s body or add accessories like jewelry, clothing, or other items.

Why Were Some Filters Banned in Texas?

In November 2021, the state of Texas filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. The lawsuit alleged that Meta’s face and body AR filters violate Texas’ Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act.

What Is the Biometric Identifier Act in Texas?

This act prohibits the collection and use of biometric identifiers without informed consent. Biometric identifiers include fingerprints, eye retinas, voice recognition, and face geometry.

The law does make some exceptions for uses like law enforcement and research purposes. However, it aims to protect consumer privacy when it comes to the commercial use of biometrics.

How Do AR Filters Allegedly Violate This Act?

Texas accused Meta’s AR filters of scanning facial geometry without user consent to enable the effects. The state argued this violates the Biometric Identifier Act’s rules around informed opt-in consent.

Essentially, the lawsuit claims Meta secretly harvests biometric data to power filters that alter users’ faces and bodies. And doing so without explicit permission conflicts with Texas’ biometric privacy regulations.

Meta’s Response to the Lawsuit

Meta firmly denied these allegations, saying AR face filters do not collect biometric data or identifiers. The company stated:

“AR filters are digital animations that are applied to people’s faces and do not use facial recognition technology. We look forward to defending our practices.”

However, to avoid litigation, Meta did temporarily disable certain AR filters in Texas, like ones that overlay eyeglasses or facial hair. This aimed to address the lawsuit’s claims while impact is minimal on the user experience.

Effects of the Filter Ban in Texas

The restrictions on AR face and body filters in Texas went into effect in December 2021. Here’s how it affected users in the state:

Unavailable Instagram and Snapchat Filters

On Instagram and Snapchat, Texans could no longer use filters that modify facial features or add virtual accessories. But filters that change color tones or lighting still worked.

Confusion and Annoyance Among Users

Many social media users in Texas expressed confusion and irritation about certain filters being blocked. Especially frequent Snapchat and Instagram filter users.

Reduction in AR Shopping Features

Some brands use AR on social platforms for virtual try-ons of products like makeup, jewelry, glasses, etc. These shoppable lenses became unavailable in Texas.

Potential Spread to Other States

Legal experts speculated whether Texas’ lawsuit could spur other states to take similar action around biometric privacy laws. So far, the Texas case remains isolated.

Eventual Re-enablement of Filters

On May 18, 2022, AR filters came back online in Texas on Meta’s apps. This followed further legal mediation where both parties agreed to re-enable the features.

Are Face Filters Safe to Use? Privacy Considerations

Beyond the specific legal issues in Texas, the filter ban also prompted broader discussions around face filters and privacy. Here are a few key points on this topic:

  • Most apps require access to your camera and photos to power filters. So they can view your images/videos, but not necessarily store them.
  • Some filters may utilize facial recognition technology to work properly and apply effects accurately.
  • The data used for filters is generally processed on your device and not sent to or saved by the app’s servers.
  • Apps should be transparent in their privacy policies about if/how biometric data is collected and used for filters. Look for specifics on consent, data retention, etc.
  • While fun and creative, certain filters do raise concerns around deeper privacy issues compared to other filter types.
  • Users concerned about privacy can choose not to use filters, adjust app permissions, or take other steps to limit potential risks.

The Future of AR Filters in Social Media

While the situation was temporary in Texas, it highlights some emerging issues as face-altering tech advances:

  • Informed consent – Ensuring users explicitly opt-in to any biometric scanning required for certain filters.
  • Transparency – Companies being very clear about what data filters use and how it’s handled, even if processed locally on devices.
  • Evolving regulation – New laws may emerge around biometric privacy as uses for things like facial analysis expand.
  • User control – Giving people granular controls over whether filters have access to biometrics like facial geometry.
  • Responsible innovation – Developing filters responsibly with privacy in mind from the start.

For now, augmented reality remains an exciting and popular social media feature. But as the technology progresses, companies will need to carefully consider the ethical implications and respect user consent. Striking the right balance between innovation and privacy will allow filters to enhance social apps while maintaining user trust.

About The Author

Scroll to Top