YouTube, identified as the top destination for online news videos in a study conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, leveraged its strengths to launch a face-blurring tool Wednesday.
The announcement was made in the official blog post of YouTube stating that the launch follows a call from the international human organization WITNESS' Camera Everywhere Report 2011 for a video-sharing site that offers users the option to blur faces and protect identity.
The issue comes into focus as more and more citizens and activists turn to online video websites to share their stories that may otherwise go unnoticed. To protect the identity of sources in such sensitive instances that pose danger to lives, YouTube urges users to adopt certain precautionary measures to protect themselves.
Explaining how the tool facilitates protection of identity, YouTube post states: Whether you want to share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists involved, or share a 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.
A report published in Ars Technica cites YouTube Spokesperson Jessica Mason, who explains that the company was working on improving the technology and creating new features. This comes on the heels of the YouTube warning that the technology is imperfect and may leave some faces un-blurred.
The mechanism allows the video to be previewed before it is posted and if the intended blurring does not occur, users can opt to keep the video private. At present, the tool does not facilitate singling out faces for blurring and leaves the identities of those not blurred exposed to the world.
The Ars Technica report shares how Mason explains the mechanism behind the new tool: We use an algorithm that scans a video and detects facial features like eyes. From there, it blurs the detected faces by adding things like noise and pixilation to the detected features.
Apparently, YouTube began to seriously discuss and pursue, the feature following the 2011 Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference.
The Ars Technica report also reveals how preliminary test findings reveal that the blur effect exactly matches the file size, with the effect working smoothly for shorter videos and taking longer period for large videos.
For those worried about undoing the blur effect on videos, the Ars Technica report quotes Mason stating: We can't say it's impossible to un-blur, but we have made it incredibly difficult, and also adds: we feel we've made it so difficult that it's not worth the immense effort required to try.
In addition, Mason notes that after the original video is deleted, the un-blurred version is removed from Google's servers very quickly.
Previously, offline editors blurred faces for any identified videos. Social Networking site Facebook employed the face recognition technology in its photos since 2011.
Tutorial on the YouTube Face Blurring Tool.