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Meta temporarily cuts photo filters to sidestep biometric data privacy lawsuits

Meta temporarily cuts photo filters to sidestep biometric data privacy lawsuits

Meta executives have shut off some avatars and filters for their Texas and Illinois subscribers. Both states have laws restricting how facial recognition is used by private entities.

The sidelined features are on Instagram, Messenger, Messenger Kids, Facebook and Portal.

Meta Platforms, parent of Instagram, disabled augmented-reality features that some say can only work with facial recognition algorithms. Company executives deny that their avatars or other filters for faces make use of those algorithms or that they identify anyone.

The Texas state’s attorney general’s office filed suit in February against Meta for allegedly crossing its law barring the capture of biometric identifiers without informing the identified person and getting their consent.

Texas TV station CBS19 published what it says is a Meta response to its questions about the feature lock-out. Executives state that people “love” their augmented reality features, which are used by “a diverse roster of creators” who “grow their businesses” with the filters and avatars.

But the reality is, the company does not want to fight Texas and Illinois in court over what Meta executives maintain is a “mischaracterization of how our features work.”

Contacted by Biometric Update, Meta says it is working on a “new opt-in experience” for the relevant filters and avatars that will explain how the software involved is not facial recognition. The opt-in part no doubt will be insurance.

In fact, Meta made the move one day after Clearview AI settled a lawsuit in Illinois filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU had said Clearview, which has famously scraped billions of face images off social media, violated the state’s precedent-setting Biometric Information Privacy Act. BIPA mandates that private entities must get explicit consent before collecting or using someone’s digital image.

Clearview, which will limit sales of its app and the use of part of its database, called the settlement “a huge win.”

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