youtube-face-blurringYouTube on Wednesday announced an automatic face-blurring feature in an effort to help protect the identities of folks who wish to remain anonymous. In particular, the social video sharing website hopes the measure will be a catalyst to encourage people from around the world to upload sensitive material.

Good in theory — but this is the Internet we're talking about.

According to YouTube, the technology can just as easily protect citizens in human rights footage as it can those in a home video of a child's birthday. "Our face blurring technology is a first step towards providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube."

Call me cynical, but what about videos of people committing crimes? Will this protect the identity of bullies? Thieves? Abusers?

"Visual anonymity in video allows people to share personal footage more widely and to speak out when they otherwise may note," YouTube said.

While YouTube more than likely thought of a measure to counteract folks who might misuse the new feature — it says "a new copy" of the video is created when the blur effect is applied, but it doesn't say if the original is saved — I'm skeptical the pros outweigh the cons.

In any case, blurring faces on YouTube is easy. Under its Video Enhancements tool, go to Additional Features and click on Blur All Faces. Of course, factors such as angle, lighting, obstructions and video quality affect the technology's ability to accurately blur faces. "It's possible that certain faces or frames will not be blurred," YouTube admitted. Currently there's no option to manually blur faces.

YouTube is a great platform for storytelling. Let's just hope the new face blurring tool isn't opening up a box for the more wicked to run free.

[via YouTube Blog]