One-Click Anonymity: YouTube Offers Automatic Face-Blurring
Google’s site has rolled out a face-blurring tool that’s supposed to let video makers automatically obscure the faces of everyone in their clips. YouTube offers a number of reasons why you’d want to do this, like protecting the privacy of kids at a basketball game.
But it seems most intent on presenting it as a human rights tool: A blog post suggests that the feature could be used to “share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists involved.” An accompanying screengrab shows the tool in action for a “Demonstration for Egypt” event.
YouTube takes pains not to promise total protection. It describes the tool as a “first step towards providing visual anonymity,” and goes on to explain that the tool may not work at all in some cases, “depending on the angle, lighting, obstructions and video quality.”
It’s still interesting to see the company offer any kind of service that makes it easier to duck a camera’s gaze. Because much of the tech world, including Google itself, is spending a lot of time on visual recognition tools, like “face-finding” features.
Apple’s iPhoto has offered a face-recognition option for several years. And Facebook seems increasingly interested in exploiting that technology to “tag” its users; last month, the company spent some $60 million on facial-recognition start-up Face.com.
Late last year, Google offered face recognition as an opt-in feature for its Google+ service (it also bought a start-up of its own). But the company has taken pains to say that it’s moving slowly with facial recognition because of privacy concerns.