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[liberationtech] Enhancing Visual Privacy / Defeating Online Face Recognition

Brian Conley brianc at
Tue Jun 28 11:45:21 PDT 2011

Hi Nathan,

We have been discussing your app as well as the potential for blurring faces
to truly obscure your identity. We are working on a guide teaching safe
practices for producing high quality visual stories.

In my experience, its quite possible to tell who an individual is if you
know them or have contact with them, and can see much of their body, but
their face is obscured.

For example, given that I know many of the individuals you work with, I am
fairly confident I can identify a number of the individuals in this photo.

You can see our own effort to obscure the identities of our correspondents
in Libya here:

I can also quite easily identify the individuals in the above photo based on
their body language and body type.

Where I've arrived at for the moment in my own thinking is that while this
is a decent option, its better to shoot closer shots, providing less
additional identifiers, or to blur the entire body.

I look forward to testing the app, but I hope you'll take these concerns
into consideration!



On Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 11:22 AM, Nathan of Guardian <
nathan at> wrote:

> The Guardian Project and WITNESS are happy to announce the beta release
> of ObscuraCam for Android. This is the first release from the
> SecureSmartCam project, a partnership between our two organizations.
> This is the result of an open-source development cycle, comprised of
> multiple sprints (and branches), that took place over the last five
> months. This v1 release is just the first step towards the complete
> vision of the project.
> The goal of the SecureSmartCam project to to design and develop a new
> type of smartphone camera app that makes it simple for the user to
> respect the visual privacy, anonymity and consent of the subjects they
> photograph or record, while also enhancing their own ability to control
> the personally identifiable data stored inside that photo or video.
> Also, we think an app that allows you to pixelize your friends, disguise
> their faces and otherwise defend their privacy just a little bit, is a
> lot of fun and helps raise awareness about an important issue.
> In this first release we have focused on "obscura" by optimizing the
> workflow of identity obfuscation in still images. Future releases will
> look at "informa", the process of properly gaining and recording
> informed consent from subjects, while also moving to video processing
> support.
> Read the full post and see some sample pictures and screenshots on our
> blog:
> If you have an Android phone, you can search for "obscuracam" in the
> Android Market, or just find/install the app on the web here:
> Finally, you can track our continuing progress, and review our notes,
> designs and research through our public project:
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Brian Conley
Director, Small World News
m: 646.285.2046
Skype: brianjoelconley
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