Google's Arts & Culture app just went viral thanks to its new feature that lets users match their selfies to artworks, but those in Illinois and Texas can't use it and are being left behind in the craze.
If you're among the people facing the same crisis, then you should know that all is not lost. The thing is, you have to jump through a couple of hoops to work around the app's block in your state.
How To Use Arts & Culture's Match Tool When It's Banned In Your State
According to the Houston Chronicle, there are two ways to make Arts & Culture's selfie feature to work in Illinois or Texas: turn off location services or install a virtual private network (VPN). However, it should be noted that these may not do the trick, even though a lot of users have reported success in using them.
For the first method, all you have to do is toggle off location services.
In iOS users' case, this can be done by heading to the Settings, Privacy, and Location Services. Meanwhile, for Android users, it's a little more complicated since the settings layout depends on what version the phone is running on and its brand-specific UI. Typically, when you're on Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later, it should be under the General tab, and when you're somewhere between Android 4.0 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop, it should be under More.
It's also worth mentioning that some users have reported that they had to turn off location services for all Google apps to make it work.
Now for the second method, what you need to do is pick out a VPN and set things up. Basically, VPNs work for this because it "tricks" Google into thinking you're connecting from someplace else, thus allowing you to circumvent the block in Illinois or Texas.
Now we have a handy list of some of the best VPNs in the market to help you choose. Notably among our selection is Windscribe, a free service that lets you use up to 2 GB worth of data. You can increase that limit to 10 GB by registering an email address, or you can do away with it completely for either $9 a month or $90 a year.
Once you've installed a VPN and connected to a server there, you should be able to see the selfie feature in Arts & Culture. Also, if you went with Windscribe, take note that you can pick servers all over the United States, and needless to say, you have to steer clear of Illinois or Texas.
One hiccup here is that you need to make sure your VPN is up and running each time you want to use the selfie feature.
On an interesting note, VPNs are also used to bypass the "Great Firewall" of China, the moniker given to the country's censorship program.
Why Is The Feature Blocked In The First Place?
Google has confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle that the selfie feature is indeed unavailable to users in Illinois and Texas. It didn't explain why, but the consensus is it's because of the regulations the two states have regarding facial recognition technology. It also seems that the same goes for users in Europe because of the EU's restrictions on the technology.
Arts & Culture has been up since 2016, but it only really took off when the selfie feature rolled out. As evidence to that, it's dominating the charts over at the App Store and Play Store, leaving some of the most popular apps such as Instagram, YouTube, and Messenger in the dust. Even celebrities are in on the whole trend.