YouTube Adds Face-Blurring Tool After Pressure for More Privacy

Here's the problem with YouTube: the comments. Oh my God, the horrible, obnoxious, devoid-of-all-intellect COMMENTS. Where users like "meggadooshbag" post things like "U AM ALL MORANS THAT BABBY IS GAY LOLL!" on perfectly wholesome videos of infants. Where -- oh, and I guess the other problem is that until now, there wasn't an easy way to protect people's privacy in posted video footage, which is why YouTube has come out with a new tool that allows users to blur faces.

(But can we work on the comment thing next?)


YouTube's face-blurring tool is the result of high demand from activist groups, who want to protect the identities of the people shown in human rights videos. Footage of protesters and victims can send a powerful message, but if their identities are revealed it could put them in danger. Now that YouTube is becoming more and more popular as a news resource for current events, the ability to block people's faces will surely be a welcome option for those uploading sensitive video content.

Of course, you don't have to be a street reporter to use the feature -- it's meant for parents, too. According to YouTube,

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.

It sounds like the process is fairly user-friendly: once a video is uploaded to YouTube, you just click a box for "Blur All Faces." YouTube then shows a preview video in the editing area so you can make sure everyone's face is properly pixellated.

Unfortunately, it seems to be an all-or-nothing deal at the moment, because you can't selectively choose faces to anonymize. YouTube also says it's not 100 percent reliable yet -- in a blog post, they refer to it as “emerging technology,” and admits that “it sometimes has difficulty detecting faces depending on the angle, lighting, obstructions, and video quality."

The fact that you have to blur everyone might make it less useful for things like birthday parties ("Oh look, here's our son, Little Blur-Face, and all his blurred friends!"), but the ease of use probably trumps the feature's fine-tuned capabilities at this point. At any rate, it's good news for the activists who have been hoping for such a tool, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out in the footage that's shared from here on out.

Do you think the face-blurring feature is a good idea? Would you ever use it in your own videos?

Image via YouTube

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