The Issue With Meta’s Filter Removal


Justice Harris, Staff Editor

Instagram and Facebook users in the state of Texas have come to notice many of their favorite filters being barred from usage. Those missing specifically pertain to face, eye, and hand filters, which rely on augmented reality (AR) technology alongside face detection software to map the user’s face and make the filter come to life. 

On Wednesday, May 11, Meta, Instagram and Facebook’s parent company, revealed that some of the filters would no longer be available in Texas after the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, sued on the claims that Meta’s use of facial recognition technology violates Texas law and infringes upon state privacy rights. However, the company claims facial recognition was discontinued in November 2021, and they take this step to cease useless legal action based on a mischaracterization of their features. 

Facial recognition technologies present an interesting challenge to the vulnerability of user data, but to target Meta’s social media chain seems outright abusive. This is because the uses of biometric technologies go beyond Instagram or Facebook, the government uses them, mobile phones use them, as well as numerous other social media platforms; they have become an integral part of societal functions.  

The existence of facial filters on social media platforms allows content creators and influencers to publish and monetize their digital designs for users to take pictures with, share, and discover more. Stripping content creators of one of their sources of income, exposure, and chosen career outlets can become monopolizing, as they will inherently be forced to switch to other platforms that have not been subject to lawsuits from the state for their facial mapping features like TikTok and Snapchat. Some people are fine with having their faces mapped and that is an unavoidable argument. 

Face filters are the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to the complexities of biometric data. For instance, deepfakes, made using AI technology to replace or replicate faces, speech and manipulate character with the intent of creating false media of someone, poses a much larger threat to the privacy of citizens. Either technology can be exploited by patrons. Data breaching exists across many forms and can happen under the databases of even government organizations; facial recognition is no different. 

Terms and Conditions exist for a reason; to make sure that the user is aware of the rules and regulations. User agreement is often legally binding, so regardless of whether the user has read the often-numerous pages, when they agree to the terms, they have accepted the conduct and use of information. At the end of the day, all users have agreed to indulge in the company’s services to its fullest extent. 

Should the face filters be returned to Meta platforms, it is important that the user carefully reads and comprehends the Terms and Conditions and any privacy notices detailed before engaging in any media app. Beware of the content that you share because once it’s out, it can be manipulated by anyone. Knowing your state and federal rights as a consumer can help us move forward when making these decisions.  

As of May 17, the filters have been returned, but users have the option to allow or disallow the applications to place effects on their eyes, face, and hands; noting that if you allow, you agree to the collection and use of information specified within the Face and Hand Effects Privacy Notice.