george floyd protests

This Tool Makes Blurring Protesters' Faces Incredibly Easy

Multiple activists have called for people to not take photos of protesters faces because they may face retaliation.
02 June 2020, 4:59am
Kiss blurred faces
Image: rockcatering; redactions by Motherboard

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

A newly developed tool makes it very straightforward for a non-technical person to quickly blur faces in a photo and remove other potentially identifying data from the image, with the developer marketing the tool particularly to those who want to preserve anonymity at protests.

"Image Scrubber," developed by software artist Everest Pipkin, works on both mobile devices and laptops in a web browser, and in Motherboard's tests can blur an image in a few seconds if needed.

"This is a tool for anonymizing photographs taken at protests," Pipkin writes on the tool's website. As protesters have marched across the country over a white police officer killing unarmed black man George Floyd, multiple activists on social media have exhorted people to not share images of protesters' faces, for fear that they may face retaliation.

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A screenshot of Image Scrubber in use. Image: Motherboard

To use Image Scrubber, a user selects 'Open image' from the top of the screen, and then selects an image to upload. The tool then displays the image's so-called EXIF data; this is metadata attached to the image that, in some cases, can include location data of where the photo was taken, or the model of camera used. Motherboard verified that Image Scrubber did remove pieces of metadata from an image.

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The tool then presents an option to scrub that data; once clicked, the user is taken to the image itself to blur any parts they wish to. A user then clicks and drags, or presses with their finger, on the area they wish to blur. If they want to go further than just blurring, a paint option is available at the top of the screen too. After applying their redactions, a user saves the image itself.

Pipkin writes that the tool does not send information anywhere, and that the image processing happens on the device itself.

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