YouTube offers face blurring in one click

By on July 18, 2012, 5:30 PM

Heeding input from human rights activists and this 2011 Cameras Everywhere report, YouTube has added a feature which aims to protect the privacy of individuals involved in controversial video footage. The new feature, "Blur All Faces", now appears in YouTube's video editor and allows users to automagically (and optionally) obscure faces during video submission.

Citing sensitive protest footage and children's basketball games as examples, YouTube seems pleased to offer the new tool as it adds a layer of anonymity to what has traditionally been a very public and unforgiving medium.

The tool is extremely simple to use. Once a user has uploaded their video and edited it to their liking, they can now look under Additional Features, find the Blur All Faces option and click the Apply button below it. Activating the feature will automatically detect and smudge out any faces it finds. Users can see the effect while previewing the video before submission. One thing though: there does not appear to be a way to blur individual faces -- it's all or nothing.

While the feature should prove a boon for sensitive and embarrassing amateur footage, it would seem to be a double-edged sword. Understandably, in many instances, hiding the faces of protesters may be of critical importance. However, concealing those faces and expressions may also dampen the chilling empathy and irrepressible outrage such videos evoke -- like the murder of Neda during Iranian protests -- a phenomenon which can help catapult unfortunate events to public prominence. It's also worth noting that obscuring the faces of attackers and brutal oppressors could make it that much more difficult to hold people and organizations accountable for their actions.

YouTube admits the feature isn't perfect, however. The company refers to the tool as an "emerging technology" and says that it may have trouble detecting faces depending on a number of variables, including lighting, obstructions, angle and source quality. The company advises users to preview first and if they aren't happy with the results, consider keeping the video private.




User Comments: 4

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voivod said:

the problem is, one poster of same video event can forget to blur. facezap.com does this with photos

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

"feature which aims to protect the privacy of individuals involved in controversial video footage...Citing sensitive protest footage"

What privacy rights? There is no privacy when you're in a public place. If you don't want to be caught protesting on camera, wear a bandanna over your face if it is legal in your municipality, or simply don't go to the protest to begin with. Better yet, if you don't want to be caught on camera, don't leave your house at all.

Guest said:

Besides the extremely anal parents of California and their children this serve only to hide criminal actions, which in it self should be illegal. If your a law abiding citizen you have nothing to worry about, nothing to hide. The biggest issue with this feature is that the person uploading the video (who recorded it) has to make the choice to blur faces or not, the people in the video don't have much of a say.

1 person liked this | MilwaukeeMike said:

What privacy rights? There is no privacy when you're in a public place. If you don't want to be caught protesting on camera, wear a bandanna over your face if it is legal in your municipality, or simply don't go to the protest to begin with. Better yet, if you don't want to be caught on camera, don't leave your house at all.

yeah, but this is a free country, and I should be free to do whatever I like without there being any consequences. It's why I blame McDonalds for my weight problem, videogames for my kids' violent streak, and the govt for my crappy job.

Accountability is for suckers, Wendigo.

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