Visual Anonymity: YouTube Now Lets You Blur Faces With One Click

YouTube today launched a new feature that allows its users to easily blur the faces of everybody in a video with just one click. This, says YouTube policy associate Amanda Conway in a blog post today, can have a number of uses. It can, for example, help users ensure they can share a video of activists during a protest without putting them at risk for later repercussions. As YouTube becomes an increasingly important part of how news spreads, having the ability to ensure the safety of those captured on these videos becomes imperative. At the same time, of course, this new feature can also help users share video of their children without broadcasting their faces to the world. This new visual anonymity, says Conway, will allow “people to share personal footage more widely and to speak out when they otherwise may not.”

Google freely acknowledges that this new tool, which can be found in YouTube’s Video Enhancements tool, doesn’t always work perfectly. “This is emerging technology, which means it sometimes has difficulty detecting faces depending on the angle, lighting, obstructions and video quality,” says Conway. Some faces, for example, may not be blurred in some frames. In these cases, YouTube recommends that users keep their videos private. The tool probably uses the same algorithms that Google’s StreetView does, by the way, but we’ve asked Google for clarification.

Currently, it seems, this new tool only allows users to blur all faces in a video. You can’t just selectively blur some faces but leave others untouched. Still, this will likely become a very useful feature for those who want to share video without putting those filmed at risk.