Fearing AG Paxton's Lawsuit, Instagram Disables Its Fancy Filters for Texans


SAN ANGELO, TX — Instagram removed some filter options for users in Texas today. Instagram’s primary benefit is the ability to alter photographic images or enhance them. The filters Instagram removed from Texas-located Instagram accounts use facial recognition to generate fun filters on selfies.

Meta Platforms, Inc., Facebook’s parent, issued a statement to Houston’s KHOU-TV. They said:

“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.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Meta over the implementation of the facial ID filters earlier this year. The lawsuit intends to have the courts deny companies like Meta from using Texans' biometric information and storing facial recognition data on their servers without the consent or knowledge of the Texas users beforehand. 

The lawsuit stems from the Texas Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act. The law forbids commercial companies from selling, leasing, or otherwise disclosing the biometric identifier to another person unless for official purposes. Meta claims using biometric measurements of a selfie to create an Instagram filter is not the same, however.

The law also demands that commercial enterprises store, transmit, and protect from disclosure the biometric identifier using "reasonable care and in a manner that is the same as or more protective than the manner in which the person stores, transmits, and protects any other confidential information the person possesses.”

The law opens Meta up to losing the lawsuit.

Paxton chose to file the lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. on Feb. 14, 2022, in Marshall in Harrison County, that is also in the congressional district of Paxton’s former primary opponent, Congressman Louie Gohmert. The primary election that Paxton won was two weeks later on March 1. The lawsuit alleged Facebook was using biometric data with deceitful disclosures to Texans and then sharing that data with other entities without Texas users’ consent. The case is still pending. Texas law prescribes a fine of $25,000 for each occurrence and that can mean millions if not billions of dollars in fines.

The Texas law is similar to a law in Illinois called the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. In that state, a class action lawsuit against Meta was settled for $650 million at $200 to $400 per user who joined the class.

From today forward, if you wish to use fancy Instagram filters that measure your face to create them, you’ll have to take a trip to Oklahoma or to some other state other than Texas or Illinois.

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