This week Meta, formerly known as Facebook, announced that it has disabled augmented reality effects, including filters and avatars, for its users in Texas and Illinois, citing state facial recognition laws. Meta says that users in those states will see a “temporarily unavailable” message when accessing such features across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and Portal. This decision comes at a time when the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) continues to wreak havoc on Illinois businesses, and just months after Texas Attorney General Ken Patton filed a lawsuit against Meta claiming the company misused facial recognition technology. Denying any wrongdoing, Meta released a statement justifying the decision as a measure to avoid “meritless and distracting litigation”:
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.