Google hopes the tool will encourage more people speaking out, though it was careful to call it only a “first step” towards providing safety to people who could face harsh repercussions from governments or drug cartel if they were identified in a video.
But the company says face-blurring doesn’t have to be just for protests.
“Whether you want to share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists involved, or share the winning point in your 8-year-old’s basketball game without broadcasting the children’s faces to the world, our face blurring technology is a first step towards providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube,” wrote Amanda Conway, a YouTube policy associate in a separate blog post.
The technology looks similar to the technology Google introduced to prevent identification of people photographed by its Street View mapping cars, breaking faces into blurry blocks.
YouTube uploaders who choose to use the feature can check the video frame-by-frame to see if the blurring was effective or not. After applying the filter, the user is given the choice to delete the original from Google’s servers, the company said.
So-called Human Rights videos have been powerful ways to effect political change in recent years, including graphic videos from Syria and Egypt that have been used to get news out when reporters are barred from an area and to encourage growth of political movements.
Google warns that simply blurring faces isn’t always going to be enough to preserve anonymity from a determined foe, especially one that is capable of spying on the network used to share videos:
1. Assess your risk. You and the people you film may face risk by posting video online. You may risk your own safety and that of your subjects while filming sensitive footage, during the editing process, and when you distribute your film online. After assessing the vulnerability you and your subjects face, you can make more informed decisions about when to film, whether to distribute your footage, and how widely you want to share it.
2. Consider other information which may give away identity. Video footage of your face is not the only way someone can detect your identity. Other factors that may be caught on video can also identify you or your subjects. Watch out for vocal identifiers, like recognizable voices or saying someone’s name on camera. Other footage can give away identity like a license plate, a name tag, or even the background scenery. Make sure that the imagery in your videos does not give away information about your location or identity.
3. Protect yourself when uploading. Consider, for example, local laws that may allow authorities to track the mobile device from which you upload. In certain countries, merely purchasing a sim card puts users at risk of tracking by government.
The feature is found in Video Enhancements Tool under the additional features.