Pixel 5 turns off face retouching by default as part of Digital Wellbeing in Google Camera

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When Digital Wellbeing launched, it was initially used to manage how often people use their phones. However, it broadly applies to other aspects of life and technology. Google is now bringing Digital Wellbeing to the concept of face retouching in camera and photo apps, starting on the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.

According to Google, over 70% of photos on Android use the front-facing camera, while 24 billion photos have been labeled as selfies in Google Photos. This clear trend coincides with the popularity of filters.

We set out to better understand the effect filtered selfies might have on people’s wellbeing—especially when filters are on by default. We conducted multiple studies and spoke with child and mental health experts from around the world, and found that when you’re not aware that a camera or photo app has applied a filter, the photos can negatively impact mental wellbeing. 

Following research into how “default filters can quietly set a beauty standard that some people compare themselves against,” Google created “people-centered guidelines” — not yet live — centered around face retouching. 

Namely, they should be disabled by default and users be given ultimate control of whether face retouching is turned on. When enabled, they should be clearly labeled, while controls around the feature should not be associated with “beauty.” This means icons and language is “value-neutral” to give you the chance to “decide what retouching means.”

The Google Camera app on Pixel devices is the first to apply these principles. The Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 will have face retouching turned off by default, while an upcoming update will introduce those “value-free, descriptive icons and labels.” Lastly, there will be panels on “how each setting is applied and what changes it makes to your image.” 

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