Encrypted messaging service Signal has announced a new feature that can automatically obscure faces in images shared with the app. The update comes as Signal is experiencing increased traffic from users taking part in protests against racial inequality, police brutality, and social injustice that have sprung up across the United States in recent days.
The app uses automated computer vision to blur out any faces its algorithms detect in an image opened using the in-app photo editing toolbox. Users also have the option of manually blurring out parts of an image with their finger using a blur tool.
Signal has been amongst the most downloaded social media apps on iOS in recent days, likely due to the messaging service’s end-to-end encryption that ensures privacy for people taking part and organizing protests. It saw a similar spike in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected, and has been on the receiving end of praise from Edward Snowden a number of times.
Google rolled out a similar feature for Youtube in 2012 as a tool aimed at helping protect the identities of individuals appearing in videos posted by human rights reporters.
Similarly, Signal’s new blur feature helps anyone sharing a picture on the platform ensure the anonymity of its subjects, and can be seen as a response to law enforcement agencies around the world increasingly turning to facial recognition technology to identify protesters.
Controversial New York-based startup Clearview AI made headlines in recent months after a front page story in The New York Times revealed it was marketing its facial recognition services to law enforcement agencies. And in November of 2019, a court ruling in Russia opened the door to the country’s vast network of CCTV cameras implementing biometrics to identify protesters in a move that was met with opposition.
June 5, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis