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Android 11 Will Ban Smartphones from ‘Altering Facial Appearance’ in Camera

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the world of smartphone photography. Google is proposing a significant change to the Camera API in Android 11 that will prevent smartphones from using face altering algorithms that change geometry, skin tone, or apply smoothing.

The new rule was brought to light by XDA Developers Editor-in-Chief Mishaal Rahman, who posted the update on Twitter as an addendum to their recent review of the Vivo X50 Pro. Phones like the X50 Pro (and others) often still perform some level of skin smoothing and skin tone brightening automatically, even when you turn their default “beauty mode” OFF.

This change to the API would ensure that any edits to facial structure or smoothing would need to happen after the photo was taken:

It seems that Google is banning OEMs from implementing facial tweaking algorithms during image processing. This means all images, by default, won’t have faces tweaked, but can still do it in post. So turning off beauty modes will *actually* turn it off.

— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) July 16, 2020

The new rule would be added to Android’s Camera API Behavior requirements, which you can read here. As Rahman’s screenshot shows, this would be rule [C-0-12], and it reads, in full:

For any android.hardware.camera2.CameraDevice or android.hardware.CameraAPI, MUST ensure that the facial appearance is NOT altered including but not limited to altering facial geometry, facial skin tone, or facial skin smoothening.

We’ll be curious to see if this has any impacts on camera apps that alters facial structure on-the-fly by design. It seems to apply specifically to camera hardware, so apps like Instagram (Face Filters) and Snapchat (Lenses) are probably exempt, but we’ll have to wait and see.

As Slash Gear points out, the restriction are probably meant to avoid controversial always-on beauty filters or nefarious AI-based deepfakes. But if and when this goes into effect, it’s likely to impact a whole slew of OEMs big and small.

Image credits: Header photo by Angela Compagnone, CC0

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