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July 19, 2012, 7:25 am UTC
YouTube today unveiled a new feature that will allow users to blur faces within videos. The new tool is expected to enhance the level of protection in videos that may require a degree of anonymity.
The move comes from YouTube, six months after Google introduced an optional facial recognition technology called Find my Face In May. Victoria Grand, YouTube Director of Global Communications and Policy, said the company was working on software to blur faces in posted videos, in answer to requests from the human rights community and as an option to deal with privacy complaints from those captured on video against their will.
"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," YouTube said in company blog.
The video-sharing site says it is adding the tool following a recent observation from human rights campaigners WITNESS that no prominent sites offered the technology.
To take advantage of this feature, select the video you'd like to edit within YouTube's Video Enhancement tool, go to Additional Features, and click the "Apply" button below the Blur All Faces option. You can preview the video before publishing and once you do, there will be the option to delete the non-blurred, original copy of the video from your YouTube account.
YouTube uses the example of the Arab Spring protests in Egypt in a post on the company blog.
As Information Week recently noted, videos of significant events posted to YouTube have become an important element in professionally produced video news segments and as standalone reportage. Having an easy way to protect the privacy of individuals shown in such videos should help reduce the chance that human rights protesters caught on camera also will be caught by authorities.
YouTube's face blurring system creates a new copy of the video in question with the blur effect, and provides an option to delete the original, unaltered video. This prevents authorities from seeking the original raw footage from YouTube, although the person posting the video must make sure he or she hasn't retained a local copy.
The company says it is proud to be a home for activist videos and says this new tool may encourage people to speak out against oppression without fear of reprisal.
"Visual anonymity in video allows people to share personal footage more widely and to speak out when they otherwise may not," the blog post continues.
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