April 16, 2021

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Google switches off default selfie retouching in Pixel 5, 4A

Google Pixel 5 cameras

Google’s Pixel 5 won’t apply camera filters by default.


Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google is rolling out a measure in its latest Pixel phones that’s designed to curb the negative impact of unrealistic beauty standards. Starting with the Pixel 5, Pixel 4A and Pixel 4A 5G, the company is turning off face retouching options by default in the camera app, it said in a Thursday blog post. 

People can still access the retouching features within the app, but filters won’t be automatically applied in order to prevent users from unknowingly using them and then comparing themselves to those retouched images. 

The search giant said it conducted multiple studies and spoke with child and mental health experts “and found that when you’re not aware that a camera or photo app has applied a filter, the photos can negatively impact mental well-being. These default filters can quietly set a beauty standard that some people compare themselves against.”

A future update will show users “value-free, descriptive icons and labels for face retouching options,” meaning they won’t be referred to as “beauty” filters. That way, Google says, “you can decide what retouching means to you.” If you select a face retouching effect, Google will show you more information about how settings are applied and how they alter your image. 

Discussions around technology and mental health have amplified as people feel mounting pressure to look perfect online. After being criticized for harboring harmful content and fostering anxiety and depression, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have taken measures designed to reduce users’ anxiety and stress, such as hiding likes. Other tech giants, like Apple and Google, have also rolled out well-being tools aimed at helping users monitor their screen time. 

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