YouTube Protects Protestors With New Facial Blur Feature

YouTube announced in a blog post on Wednesday a new tool to blur faces in videos. In recent years, YouTube has gradually shifted from a place to share cute kitten videos to a global activist platform that has helped document (and foment) unrest throughout Europe, the Middle East and North America. With the facial blur feature, the company has formally recognized the need to protect the identities of people whose images it distributes.

The post cited a 2011 report from Witness, a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of video to advance human rights, that states, “No video-sharing site or hardware manufacturer currently offers users the option to blur faces or protect identity.” YouTube Policy Associate Amanda Conway responded that "YouTube is excited to be among the first" to offer such technology.    

"We are at an evolution point where pictures and video are the most powerful ways to get our stories across, but people need to have the option to protect themselves," said Sam Gregory, program director of Witness, to the Los Angeles Times

The feature is automated, blurring all faces that appear in video imagery. It doesn't yet allow manual blurring of faces, which YouTube described as "emerging technology." If a user were hoping to blur, say, the face of a protestor being beaten but not of the cops doing the beating, YouTube recommended keeping the video private. 

Facial blur is available in the YouTube Video Enhancement section. 

Image courtesy of YouTube.