Google Photos' Magic Editor will refuse to make these edits

Google Pixel 8 press image video grab camera double angled
(Image credit: Google)

A newly discovered string of code in the latest Google Photos update reveals there are certain subjects that the Magic Editor tool on the Pixel 8 series will refuse to edit.

Android Authority recently dove into the Google Photos v.6.60 patch when they came across the guardrails. First, they state Magic Editor will not alter pictures of “ID cards, receipts,” or any other documents “that violate [the company’s] GenAI terms.” Second, the tool will not edit “images with personally identifiable information.” Third, it won’t change “human faces [or] body parts.” And finally, Magic Editor won’t work on large selected areas in a photo. When editing on your Pixel 8 smartphone, you’ll have to keep selections short and sweet. Highlighted portions requiring “a lot of data to be generated” will result in an error message popping up on the screen.

The report states Magic Editor could already block many of these changes, but the way it went about it was really vague. The problem with the previous version was it lacked “specific error messages” leaving Pixel 8 owners scratching their heads wondering what went wrong. Moving forward, things will be a lot more clear. The mobile device will tell you specifically what you did wrong. 

Room for improvement

Out of curiosity, we tested Magic Eraser on a Chromebook Plus laptop to see if it was possible to alter a driver’s license. While not as robust as Magic Editor, the tool also harnesses a generative AI model capable of creating pixels to cover up parts of a photo. As it turns out, it is possible to produce a clean driver's license with just Magic Eraser although it takes a little while nor is it perfect. It did have several flaws.

Perhaps Google doesn’t see the Chromebook Plus feature as capable as Magic Editor so it didn’t see the need to address its potential flaws. However, if the tech giant does want to ensure bad actors aren’t misusing their tech, they may want to close up that potential Chromebook Plus loophole.

It is worth pointing out that in their investigation, the news site was able to edit invoices. Those should technically violate Google’s terms of service as they are documents with personally identifiable information, but that wasn't the case. So there is room for improvement in a future update.

Potential future updates

In addition to the guardrail, Android Authority discovered clues that Magic Editor might gain “prompt-based editing”. This would give users the ability to move objects and people in an image via text prompts. For example, you could tell the Pixel 8 to move you toward the middle, erase some random guy in the back, and replace a cloud sky with a clear one – at least in theory. The report admits there isn’t any hard evidence suggesting how it’ll exactly work apart from a few lines of code, but it does look like Google is working on it.

If you’re looking to become a better photo editor but don’t know where to start, check out TechRadar’s list of the best free photo editing software

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Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.