Jessica Booth
January 18, 2018 3:50 pm
Shannon Smith /

If you’ve been on social media in the last week or so, you’re probably more than familiar with the Google Arts and Culture app — or at least the museum portrait feature on the app. Everyone, from your closest friends to your favorite celebrities, has been posting an image of their selfie next to a painting that maybe-sort-of looks like them, and it’s weirdly fun to take part in this trend. Unfortunately, not everyone can join in on the action because the feature is not available everywhere — the Google Arts and Culture app isn’t working in two states, which could explain the tech glitches some have been experiencing.

If you live in Texas or Illinois, you’re out of luck. Google has officially confirmed that the app isn’t working in either place. Well actually, the app itself is functional; it’s the museum-portrait feature that isn’t available. So while residents of Texas and Illinois can download the app, they can’t find out which work of art matches their selfie the best.

Unfortunately, the reason behind this isn’t a glitch that can easily be fixed or a mistake waiting to be corrected. Things are a bit more complicated than that. Time reports that both states have laws about biometric privacy that could be keeping you from finding out your classic artwork twin.

What exactly does that mean? Biometrics refers to the use of features like facial recognition, which can digitally identify people. The app’s museum portrait feature uses that kind of technology to set up a match. In Texas and Illinois, however, the selfies being taken are not legally allowed to be identified by Google (or any company, for that matter) without user consent. In other words, it’s pretty much illegal for Google to enable this feature in these states.

Luckily, there are options you can try if you’re really set on playing with this feature while it’s still viral material. Users in those states can turn off location services on their phone or for all Google apps on their phone, which should be pretty simple. You can also sign up for a Virtual Private Network (also called a VPN), which can be trickier, cost money, or do damage to your phone. So be careful!

One other option? You can send your photo to someone who lives in a different state and ask them to get the results for you. Just keep it in the U.S. — the feature isn’t globally available yet.

Of course, you could also use this as an excuse to plan an out-of-state vacation. What? You deserve some time off, and if the museum portrait feature comes with it, so be it!

In the meantime, we’ll keep you updated if anything changes.