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Snapchat filters were not created by the FBI for a database

December 19, 2018 GMT

CLAIM: A photo caption circulating on social media states that “Snapchat filters are a facial recognition database created by the FBI.” For proof, it refers users to “patent US9396354.”  

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Though Snapchat’s photo-altering technology recognizes a face in a photo, it does not use facial recognition to do so. 

THE FACTS: The caption, which appears on a photo of a man whose facial features are outlined in yellow, is inaccurate, a Snapchat spokeswoman told The Associated Press in an email.  Snapchat “lenses,” which the post calls “filters,” allow users on the mobile messaging app to alter faces in photos _ frequently selfies _ to manipulate the way they look or add things like dog ears or sunglasses. She said this feature relies on tracking technology, not facial recognition. She said the patented technology referred to in the post is not used in any Snapchat feature.

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Clare Garvie, senior associate at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law Center, confirmed that Snapchat uses feature detection. She noted that use of the process is not unique to Snapchat. For example, the international beauty chain Sephora uses a similar feature to show customers how makeup products would look on their face. 

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.