YouTube blurs the lines

The video site rolled out a new tool yesterday that can blur faces in videos. The editing feature was built in response to the increasing amount of dissident video-makers who use the site to get out news of their struggles, sometimes putting people featured in the clips at great risk. From the YouTube blog:

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.


Seems like YouTube was more interested in getting this feature out to the public than perfecting it. Hooray, humanity! It admits that the blurring feature is “emerging technology” and may not be perfect, urging users to preview the video before posting. Also along the lines of “emerging technology,” there’s no way to choose which faces get blurred. You can choose the “Blur All Faces” option, and YouTube’s algorithms will do their best. Once you’re satisfactorily blurry, you also have the option of permanently deleting your original video, which leaves no “paper trail” and probably helps keep YouTube employees safe by not becoming the target of extremists demanding to see original footage.

About the author

Marc Sanchez is the technical director and associate producer for Marketplace Tech Report where he is responsible for shaping the sound of the show.
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