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Blurred Vision on YouTube July 20, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Government.
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The Google-owned video site YouTube has just announced a new feature that allows users to upload their content with faces blurred. The feature allows those who require anonymity to upload videos, but can also be used by anyone – for example a parent might want to blur the face of his children on a video that might receive a lot of views by strangers.

The technology is automated, so the system can detect faces and blur them then the users can preview the video frame-by-frame before publishing it – with the certainty that every individual frame is blurred.

This is an interesting development in the light of recent political upheavals across the world. YouTube was credited as being a major force for change in events such as the Arab Spring and video from the ground uploaded by activists was essential in demonstrating to the world that official government statements were not always to be believed.

Because the original video must be uploaded and then processed it may be interesting to see if there is ever any legal challenge and request for the original video to be released – perhaps where the blurred face conceals a criminal. YouTube are facilitating anonymity, but will people trust that there really is no original copy of their movie online?

Face Shake

Photo by Kaptain Kobald licensed under Creative Commons



Google: guilty as charged? May 10, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, IT Services, Outsourcing, Software.
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Last month, three Google executives in Italy were all given six-month suspended jail sentences in a criminal trial that has been condemned by Internet observers the world over.

What was their crime? To be country managers of Google – the owner of video-sharing service YouTube – and to not have taken fast enough action when a video of an autistic teenager being bullied was uploaded to the service.

It sounds bizarre, because YouTube clearly cannot have a human operator watching every second of every video and approving it personally. The site has more than 24 hours of video uploaded every single minute – and that’s only increasing.

YouTube has strong controls on adult content and an easy to use system for users to report abusive or offensive videos. The system means that the community polices itself, but being reactive it does mean that offensive content can be available for a period of time until reported.

But Judge Oscar Magi did not rule against YouTube for not offering a strong enough system of content control. He said: “In simple words, it is not the writing on the wall that constitutes a crime for the owner of the wall, but its commercial exploitation can.”

The Judge ruled the Google managers were guilty of criminal charges in this case because the YouTube system earns money from placing adverts around the videos, therefore in the eyes of the judge these executives were directly profiting from the abuse of a child. Is it a fair application of criminal law to state that it applies differently if the defendant was making money from their actions? It seems from the decision in this trial that if the Google executives were running YouTube as a public service, with no adverts or profit, then they might have no charge to answer to.

Now, that’s even more bizarre.