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YouTube introduces face blurring technology

The revolution is being televised.  All of them.

A new Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism shared in its, described data that

reveal that a complex, symbiotic relationship has developed between citizens and news organizations on YouTube, a relationship that comes close to the continuous journalistic “dialogue” many observers predicted would become the new journalism online. Citizens are creating their own videos about news and posting them. They are also actively sharing news videos produced by journalism professionals. And news organizations are taking advantage of citizen content and incorporating it into their journalism.

This democratic approach to journalism now plays a critical and widely-accepted role in alerting us all to emerging revolutions, human and civil rights abuses, natural disasters.

But citizen journalism, in fact, any kind of on-the-spot journalism, may unintentionally compromise privacy and reveal identities of those whose lives depend on anonymity.

YouTube recently introduced a tool to address privacy in video.  The new tool allows filmmakers to obscure faces in videos.

YouTube’s new face blurring option, announced last week

allows you to obscure faces within videos with the click of a button.

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’s example:

To blur face in YouTube’s Video Enhancements tool, go to Additional Features and click Apply button below Blur All Faces on the bottom right of the screen. After viewing a preview of  your video with faces blurred, you can save changes to create new copy with blurred faces.  At that point you may delete the original video.

Here’s what it looks like on one of our student-produced videos:

YouTube notes that the technology is not yet perfect.  If you are not satisfied with the blurring effect, you may, of course, choose to keep your video private.

And, of course, face blurring is not a magic bullet.  People are recognizable by their voices and clothing. And many citizen journalists won’t stop to bother with this added editing feature.

Nevertheless, we can applaud YouTube’s contribution.

And, here at home, it may make it a lot easier for schools to share video of student events, and for some of our students to conduct more confidential interviews.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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