Face blurring: when footage requires anonymity

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. According to the international human rights organization WITNESS’ Cameras Everywhere report, “No video-sharing site or hardware manufacturer currently offers users the option to blur faces or protect identity.”

YouTube is excited to be among the first.

Today we're launching face blurring - a new tool that 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.

Blurring faces on YouTube is simple. Once you’ve chosen the video that you’d like to edit within our Video Enhancements tool, go to Additional Features and click the “Apply” button below Blur All Faces. Before you publish, you will see a preview of what your video will look like with faces blurred. When you save the changes to your video, a new copy is created with the blurred faces. You will then be given the option to delete the original video.

This is emerging technology, which means it sometimes has difficulty detecting faces depending on the angle, lighting, obstructions and video quality. It’s possible that certain faces or frames will not be blurred. If you are not satisfied with the accuracy of the blurring as you see it in the preview, you may wish to keep your video private.

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

YouTube is proud to be a destination where people worldwide come to share their stories, including activists. Along with efforts like the Human Rights Channel and Citizentube that curate these voices, we hope that the new technologies we’re rolling out will facilitate the sharing of even more stories on our platform.

Amanda Conway, YouTube policy associate, recently watched "Russian court refuses to free anti-Putin punks."

A new human rights channel on YouTube

From its inception, YouTube has been a platform for free expression. Activists around the world use YouTube to document causes they care about and make them known to the world. In the case of human rights, video plays a particularly important role in illuminating what occurs when governments and individuals in power abuse their positions. We’ve seen this play out on a global stage during the Arab Spring, for example: during the height of the activity, 100,000 videos were uploaded from Egypt, a 70% increase on the preceding three months. And we’ve seen it play out in specific, local cases with issues like police brutality, discrimination, elder abuse, gender-based violence, socio-economic justice, access to basic resources, and bullying.

That’s why our non-profit partner WITNESS, a global leader in the use of video for human rights, and Storyful, a social newsgathering operation, are joining forces to launch a new Human Rights channel on YouTube, dedicated to curating hours of raw citizen-video documenting human rights stories that are uploaded daily and distributing that to audiences hungry to learn and take action. The channel, which will also feature content from a slate of human rights organizations already sharing their work on YouTube, aims to shed light on and contextualize under-reported stories, to record otherwise undocumented abuses, and to amplify previously unheard voices. The project was announced today at the Internet at Liberty conference, and will live at youtube.com/humanrights. Storyful will source and verify the videos, and WITNESS will ensure the channel features a balanced breadth of issues with the context viewers need to understand the rights issue involved.

We hope this project can not only be a catalyst to awareness, but offer people new avenues for action and impact. The channel is committed to providing new citizen creators as well as viewers with the tools and information necessary so that every citizen can become a more effective human rights defender. It will also be available on Google+, where the broader human rights community can take part in discussions, share material, and find collaborators.

We welcome your feedback and thoughts on the channel, and if you want to suggest a video for inclusion, email the YouTube URL to witness@storyful.com. Please include any and all details around the time, place, and context of the video. Also, be sure to take the time to learn how to protect yourself and your subjects if you’re the one behind the camera.

Sam Gregory, WITNESS Program Director, and Olivia Ma, YouTube news manager, recently watched “Citizen Watch May 2012."

Technology and human rights

Cross-posted from the Google Public Policy Blog.

Every day we see Internet users around the world finding new ways to use technology to help bring about political, economic and social change. It’s exciting to see people exercise their rights to freely express themselves and access information across borders and media -- rights first enshrined in Article 19 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights long before the Internet existed.

Far less clear, however, are the long-term implications of rapid technological development for human rights: What’s the balance between people using social media to empower themselves and governments using it to oppress their own citizens? How do governments create national policies when the Internet breaks borders? And what role do companies have in enabling or protecting the free exchange of ideas?

These questions and more will be addressed at the first ever Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, taking place in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 25 and 26. Activists, academics, and analysts will meet with engineers, entrepreneurs, and executives for discussion about how and when technology can advance human rights.

We’re pleased to be the original sponsor of Rightscon, as it’s being called. Several Googlers from the public policy team, as well as speakers from YouTube, will be participating on panels and in roundtable discussions on topics from free expression and government regulation to transparency and intermediary liability. You can see the full agenda here.

We want you to be part of the conversation, too. So in partnership with Access, the non-profit which is hosting the event, we will be live streaming the plenary speeches and panels from 9am to 5pm PT on each day of the conference on CitizenTube, YouTube’s News and Politics channel. We hope you’ll tune in and participate.

Christine Chen, Senior Manager of Policy and Communications, recently watched “Search and Rescue in Turkey