July 18, 2012 at 2:07 PM ET
YouTube said Wednesday users can now blur faces on the videos they upload, a feature that could help save lives — as well as reputations.
"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," wrote Amanda Conway, YouTube policy associate on the site's blog.
Here's how the new tool, called "face blurring," works:
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.
Conway writes that the tool is still "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."
While blurring faces can be a huge help, there are other ways "to protect yourself and the people in your videos," she said.
Those recommendations are listed on this page, and include mention of being aware of local laws that could allow authorities to track the mobile device from which you upload video. "In certain countries, merely purchasing a SIM card puts users at risk of tracking by government."