YouTube protects activists with new face-blurring feature

Posted by Emma Woollacott

With YouTube increasingly the tool of choice for activists around the world, the company's launching a face-blurring feature to protect users' anonymity.

Human rights organization Witness has welcomed the move, having called for such a feature in the past. It says activists in countries from Zimbabwe to the US are in danger because of their lack of anonymity.

"In places like Syria, activists on the ground note how often people are identified and tracked down because of the video that they share online," says Witness's Sam Gregory.

"As more and more people use video to speak out because its the medium of our age, the need to give people the option to choose tools to obscure becomes even more acute."

As YouTube points out, there may be other reasons for blurring faces too. Many parents are unhappy about pictures that might identify their children online.

To use the feature, users simply need to use the Video Enhancements tool, going to Additional Features and clicking the Apply button below Blur All Faces. Before the video's published, the user can check a preview before deleting the original video.

The company warns that the tool may not always work.

"This is emerging technology, which means it sometimes has difficulty detecting faces depending on the angle, lighting, obstructions and video quality," says policy associate Amanda Conway.

"It’s possible that certain faces or frames will not be blurred. If you are not satisfied with the accuracy of the blurring as you see it in the preview, you may wish to keep your video private."