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[liberationtech] New YouTube face blur tool and its human rights implications

Gregory Maxwell gmaxwell at
Wed Jul 18 19:55:07 PDT 2012

On Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 4:37 PM, Matisse Bustos Hawkes
<matisse at> wrote:
> Hello all,
> I'm sure some of you saw today's news that YouTube announced a new face blur
> tool into their editing suite - as they put it: "Whether you you want to
> share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists
> involved,

I wonder if they make timepieces which can measure timespans short
enough to clock the amount of time between publication of the
announcement and the arrival of the national security letters (and
equivalents from the other nations google has physical presence in)
requiring google to secretly record and indefinitely retain any of the
originals which have been marked for "deletion".

I think it's good to hear that people are thinking of this, but
unfortunate to see that tools like this from institutions and in forms
which are structurally incapable of keeping their word, though no
fault of their own.  Trust should come from promises which can't be
broken whenever possible, and in the case of anonymizing video we can
do a lot better than cloud hosted SaaS in that regard, especially when
they are specifically marketed as being for activism.

Youtube could opt not to provide this feature and to leave more room
for tools which run entirely under the user's control, but now that
they provide it they'll likely not be able to turn it off when its
starts being used in a manner which is contrary to human rights.

I understand that tool accessibility is also very important, but bad
technology crowds out good and anonymity tools which are centralized
and deeply and fundamentally unauditable are most certainly the bad
kind, even if they were made with the best intentions.

I think youtube should reconsider how they're representing this tool
and take the opportunity to also recommend some non-SaaS audited tools
which can't so easily be secretly compromised.

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