YouTube has recently launched a face-blurring tool that lets users blur faces in a video before it is uploaded. The tool is an important step for the website, making it easier for its users to become anonymous at the click of a button. According to YouTube policy associate, Amanda Conway, “The Blur Tool is the first step towards providing visual anonymity on YouTube.” YouTube is quite optimistic that this new technology will help cement its status as the most popular video sharing website. Although it is interesting to note that a similar blurring technology is used by Google Maps street view to blur vehicle license plates. Google own YouTube.
The tool was inspired by the international uprisings and videos showcasing the protests currently underway in many Arab countries. Despite the more than 100,000 videos having been uploaded from Egypt alone, YouTube believes that the lack of visual anonymity keeps citizens from speaking out and sharing personal footage. But now they can choose to speak up and share because YouTube guarantees complete anonymity.
The tool is pretty easy to access. While uploading your video, go to the YouTube’s Video Enhancements tool, select Additional Features and click on the Apply button under “Blur All Faces”. You will be allowed to see a preview before the final changes are applied. It’s really quite simple. But like all new technology, there are inherent limitations to the Blur tool. First, even YouTube admits that the technology may have difficulty detecting all the faces in a video. This depends on video quality and lighting among other factors. Secondly, it’s called called Blur All Faces for a reason; the tool doesn’t have the ability to let you pick and choose the faces you want to blur. But regardless of all these limitations, YouTube’s Blur Tool is being hailed as a major victory for privacy rights. YouTube is hoping that its launch will result in more video posts.
In a post on the Official YouTube Blog, Amanda Conway said, “As citizens continue to play a critical role in supplying news and human rights footage from around the world, YouTube is committed to creating even better tools to help them.”YouTube is a popular destination for videos of protest and civil disobedience from around the world. The website has played an important part in the Arab Spring. Protestors from Middle East have used this site extensively to share footage of unrest in their regions. More than 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute.