Yes, it’s true – there are some countries where freedom is just a word in the dictionary – a dictionary that's probably in another language from a much freer country.
In these kinds of countries, protests happen, and when they’re filmed on someone’s phone and uploaded to YouTube, those who are visibly identifiable probably aren’t long for this world – depending on the country in question.
Then there’s the problem of filming kids, say your kids in some sports match – and wanting to upload that video to the Internet, but in a way that’s private so no-one can identify or target your children in ways we don’t even want to think about.
In the past, you’d have needed to know how you use your video editing software to blur faces, in addition to actually owning video editing software and a computer capable of handling the task – which is a big ask for someone in a dodgy, freedom-hating country.
The news comes courtesy of Amanda Conway, YouTube’s “policy associate”, who quotes one of the world’s “independent human rights organisations” called “Witness”, who in their “Cameras Everywhere” report, stated that: “No video-sharing site or hardware manufacturer currently offers users the option to blur faces or protect identity.”
Fascinatingly, the move has come from privacy-besmircher Google, who seemingly couldn’t care less about ripping apart your privacy in the first world, but is all for protecting your privacy by digital blurring if you’re from “Dodgistan” and face death by breakfast if caught by gov’t thugs.
All you need to do is find a way to upload your video of vulnerable protesters, and whammo – all you need is to click the right button within the YouTube interface and boom – your subjects are blurred beyond recognition.
Yes, although Google is designed to destroy anonymity on the Internet, its video sharing offshoot has decided to protect your anonymity, in what is an unusual situation for the world’s biggest database on damn well everything.
YouTube’s Ms Conway says that: “Visual anonymity in video allows people to share personal footage more widely and to speak out when they otherwise may not”, and she speaks about “human rights footage” often ending up on YouTube, with Ms Conway hoping the new blurring technologies “will facilitate the sharing of even more stories on our platform”.
So, as Google’s left hand strives to ensure the destruction of all human privacy on one hand and somehow stay true to its creed of “do no evil”, it’s right hand strives to make sure that if you’re a dissident who cannot afford to be visually identified, you can stay safe when your video is uploaded to YouTube.
It’s an interesting dichotomy in one sense for the world’s biggest advertising search engine, one where YouTube will have to decide whether to identify those who are uploading videos they’ve applied a blurring filter to if ever asked by rogue governments.
Let’s hope Google can truly stay true to its edict of “do no evil”, with this YouTube blurring business one of the few positive signs of late that Google truly has any intention of ever doing so.