Google speaks out against “beauty mode” in smartphone camera apps

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Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central

Digital Wellbeing isn’t just about how long you use your phone or whether you go to bed on time. It also looks at other ways you interact with your smartphone. Take selfies, Google is changing a popular feature that you will see on many Android phones: face retouching. On some Android phones, you may find it dubbed Beauty Mode or something similar. Essentially, it’s a feature that takes your face and smooths it, brightens it, changes the shape of your eyes, and spits out an “embellished” photo.

Google notes that these characteristics affect mental health in ways that may not be immediately evident at first, especially among young people or those who do not meet conventional beauty standards. Vinit Modi from Google, Product Manager. explained Thursday:

We sought to better understand the effect that filtered selfies could have on people’s well-being, especially when filters are turned on by default. We have conducted several studies and spoken to experts in children’s health and mental health around the world, and have found that when you are not aware that a camera or photo app has applied a filter, photos can have a negative impact on mental well-being. These default filters can quietly set a standard of beauty that some people compare themselves to.

The company isn’t just pretending to speak out on this idea, it’s also modifying the Pixels Camera app to reflect that. Currently, pixels have a “face retouch” that modifies your selfies to adjust skin texture, skin tone, and eye brightness. It will be updated with clearer labeling and worthless iconography. The sparkles that you currently see on the feature will be replaced with something like a small brush icon. The text will also replace terms such as “Natural” with “Subtle” (“Smooth” remains the same).

These updates will be deployed at an unspecified time in the future.

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