YouTube has announced a new feature to protect people in videos of protests, for example, from retaliation from oppressive governments. The new "Blur All Faces" tool detects faces in a video and blurs their features. The results look a little like the blurred faces of people caught by happenstance in Google Street View images.
Families may also like to use the tool to blur out kids' faces in videos of birthday parties or soccer games, YouTube wrote in a blog post. "Our face blurring technology is a first step towards providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube," the company wrote.
Witness, a nonprofit group that supports the video recording of human rights abuses, "applauds" YouTube's new tech, according to a blog post. Witness gave examples of Syrian protestors who were captured and tortured by government forces after they were identified in videos posted online. "As more and more people use video to speak out because its [sic] the medium of our age, the need to give people the option to choose tools to obscure becomes even more acute," Witness wrote.
Face blurring isn't a complete answer to keeping activists safe. For one thing, the YouTube tool is an "emerging technology" that may not find and blur all the faces in a video, depending on the lighting, the angle of the faces and the quality of the video, YouTube wrote. The company suggests watching the blurred preview before posting and keeping sensitive videos private if the tool didn't work completely. In addition, background details may give away identities and some governments track people's mobile devices for uploads, YouTube wrote in a separate blog.
Face blurring is a part of making it easy for anybody in the world to express themselves in videos freely and anonymously, supporting free speech around the world, Witness argued.