Just like turning off your phone’s GPS or limiting what data you share with Google, people have a right to digital privacy, but the built-in facial recognition algorithms on sites like Facebook or apps like Google Photos actively work against our digital autonomy.
While there are ways to control where and when your own face shows up online—such as turning off automatic facial recognition for Facebook photos, limiting what others users can share and tag you in, or even making your social media feeds private—there are times you need to protect the anonymity of others, too.
Be mindful of publishing images strangers, especially photos from protests. It’s best to not take such photos in the first place, but if you do, consider using image editing tools to blur faces before posting (and remember to always wear a mask while at protests to keep your face out of other people’s photos, too).
Here are a couple of free tools that will get the job done quickly and easily.
This is a free, open-source program that blurs faces in images and even strips metadata out of files, which can be used to identify the location, camera, and even photographer of an image if not removed properly. ImageScrubber does all the work online, too—there’s nothing to install. Here’s how to use it:
Go to the ImageScrubber website.
Click “Open Image” to upload the photo you want to edit.
Use the brush tools to blur any faces or paint over parts of the photo you don’t want to be seen.
Click “Save Image” to save a copy of the edited photo to your device. This also removes the metadata.
The open-source and encrypted messaging app Signal will soon be able to automatically mosaic faces and manually blur out objects with the mobile app’s built-in image editor. (The feature isn’t officially available yet, but here’s how to find it once it is).
Open the Signal app and tap the camera icon.
Take a photo or view an image saved on your phone to open the image editor.
The blur tool will appear as a circular icon with mosaic squares at the top of the editor menu, like in the above screenshot. Tap the icon to automatically blur any faces in the photo.
You can also draw on the photo to blur whatever parts of it you touch. Use this to blur any faces the app may have missed, and obscure recognisable characteristics like tattoos, jewellery, or logos.