Google disables selfie filters by default on Pixel phones for welfare

From now on, Google will disable selfie filters by default on Pixel phones. The company says it does so because the filters could have an impact on mental health. Google also wants to express the filter options more neutrally.

According to Google, it is now unclear to some users when a selfie filter is enabled on a phone. Multiple kids and mental health experts tell Google that if a user doesn’t know that such a filter is enabled, it can have a negative impact on a user’s mental health. The default filters would “quietly” create a standard of beauty that some would compare to.

That’s why Google has established guidelines that require users to become more aware of the use and effects of selfie filters. This would allow users to choose whether and how they want to adjust their face. According to these guidelines, filters that adjust the face should be turned off by default. When filters are enabled, it must also be clear to the user that a filter is on. References to ‘beauty’ should also be avoided in filter options. Instead, icons and language should be neutral. This allows users to determine what the filters mean, according to Google.

These guidelines are important, according to the company, because of the extensive use of selfies. More than seventy percent of all photos taken with an Android device would be a selfie, Google claims. In Google Photos, 24 billion photos would have been marked as selfies. Filters have also become increasingly popular in recent years, according to Google.

Selfie filters are turned off by default in the Camera app on the new Pixel 4a phones and Pixel 5. In an upcoming update, the selfie texts and icons will be replaced by more neutral variants. In addition, users also get more information about what a selfie filter does. For example, face retouching means that the skin texture, complexion under the eyes, and the brightness of the eyes are adjusted. It is not known when this update should come. According to The Verge, Google switched on selfie filters as standard for the first time when Pixel 4 was introduced last year.

Update: Snapchat adheres to Google’s guidelines and says it wants to add more transparency about the filtering and retouching effects in its app. Snapchat claims to have already used neutral terms.