YouTube Offers Face Blurring Technology

YouTube just announced a useful new feature: an easy face blur option. The announcement says the feature is aimed for news and human rights agencies to protect privacy and identities especially if posting images of activists who may need to remain anonymous or if minors are present in the videos and privacy is a concern.

The announcement also points out the power of anonymity and its relationship with free speech:

Visual anonymity in video allows people to share personal footage more widely and to speak out when they otherwise may not.

Because human rights footage, in particular, opens up new risks to the people posting videos and to those filmed, it’s important to keep in mind other ways to protect yourself and the people in your videos.

This face-obscuring technology could come in handy for photo sharing sites (or software as a batch edit) as well — imagine being able to upload an entire shoot and automatically blur hundreds of faces.

Unfortunately, it appears that the YouTube feature automatically blurs all faces, so even if permissions or releases are not an issue for some individuals, there is no way to select who stays and who blurs. Also, YouTube says the face recognition algorithm may not always properly detect faces; depending on factors like angle, lighting and video quality, some faces might randomly remain.

Face blurring: when footage requires anonymity (via Engadget)

  • Happy_Tinfoil_Cat

    I am so sick of things being blurred out. The stage props on sitcoms, t-shirts on candid shows, the middle finger, etc. How can people protest in the street, not cover their face and then want to have their face blurred on YT? The entire point of a protest is to be seen and draw attention to yourself. Oh, and that utter BS about blurring Johnny’s face in his game-saving basket ‘for the children’? Perhaps that guy who was raping little boys in Thailand will like this new feature better than the ‘swirl’ he was using.

    All that said, you can bet your ass the government already has the reverse mathematics required to unblur this stuff. And those ‘deleted’ originals, HaHa, a court order will bring those out of the backup tapes on demand. Don’t expect our government to be the only one with mathmaticians.

  • madmax

    You are right. I just was thinking about the originals and who is keeping backups “safe”. Better do the blurring at home with commercial software and don´t let big brother snooping around.

  • manitwo

    »… already has the reverse mathematics required to unblur this stuff«
    LOL, seen too much CSI?

  • 9inchnail

    It’s absolutely impossible to unblur images. But as long as Google has the originals, you’re not safe. Google tries to establish an image of your friend and savior of democracy which is bullsh*t. They might blur faces but you don’t know what face recognition software they used before that. They might search their Google+ database for the people in those videos and report them to the feds. If you wanna stay anonymous, don’t use social networks, they are NOT on your side.

  • Happy Tinfoil Cat

    Try looking up the word “deconvolution”. You may save yourself from publicly humiliating yourself like this again.

  • madmax

    I think there is no reason to say it´s absolutely impossible to unblur images but agree social networks are not on our side.

  • 9inchnail

    Yes, there is a reason to say it. The reason is that it is a fact. By blurring an image you don’t encrypt information, you destroy it. Those facial features are gone, they can’t be reconstructed or “decrypted”. Look at the sample, it’s just a smudge after the blurring. You CAN’T unblur a picture. Period.

  • Happy_Tinfoil_Cat

    Yes you can. I know it can be done, absolutely. You are speaking without knowledge. Run a test pattern through the blur filter, figure out what changes were made, find the mathematical function used and reverse it. BTW, plenty of blurred photos have been unblurred and a video should be much easier.

  • James Graham

    Is there any [free] way to do this on a desktop (without uploading the video)?