While appearing at a world protest may demonstrate your opinion, you may not want your face – or the faces of other demonstrators – to be included, especially if there is a possibility that the authorities may collect and use this information (as they did) have) to track movements during social distancing from COVID-19). For this reason, many consider it important to cover up people's faces in photos that you may post on social media and other online sources. (For more information, see a toolkit created by the Authority Collective that provides information and advice on the subject.)
Below are some strategies for removing facial features from your photos. Of course, you can open your images on a desktop or laptop with Photoshop or Preview to blur or clean them up. However, we assume that you will not carry a laptop with you. So when it comes to the phone, you still have some solid options.
What needs to be done
When removing faces, you want to use a method that cannot be undone. It is possible to blur a photo, especially with the help of neural networks. It is not possible to completely reverse the blur because it is lossy (in other words, some data is lost permanently), but much can be "restored". So why take the risk? Painting over faces or using mosaic blurring techniques prevents the effect from being reversed.
You also want to remove all metadata from your images. They can include GPS location, timestamps, and details of the type of phone you're using – basically a lot of things that you can use to determine exactly where you were and when.
While there are a variety of apps you can use to blur or hide faces and remove metadata for both iOS and Android devices (some of which are mentioned below). However, there are ways to do both without using a third-party app.
First of all, you can use your built-in photo editor to hide faces one by one. In iOS, open Photos, tap your photo, and select the Edit option (in the top right corner). Tap the three dots in the same corner to access markup. Use it to create filled circles or squares to hide faces.
It's not that easy with an Android phone. Android also has a native markup tool. In the Photos app, select the photo, tap the editing tool (second from the bottom left), and select Markup (second from the bottom right). You can then use the pen tool in the bottom center to scribble over anything you want to cover.
Hide faces with the iOS Photo app.
Hide faces with the Android Photo app.
You then want to remove the metadata. When you take a photo on your device, the meta is automatically attached. The easiest way to avoid this is to take screenshots of your photos so that meta and geotagging are not transferred. Also make sure that you are viewing your photo in full screen mode and that you have no notifications or other identifying features in the screenshot.
The same can be done for videos – at least with an iPhone. Instead of just using the camera app, start a screen capture while creating your video and use that capture instead.
If you have a LG or Samsung Android phone, you may also have a built-in screen recorder. Find it in your shadow for quick settings by swiping down two times. If it doesn't exist or you have a different phone model, you'll need to download a third-party app like AZ Screen Recorder.
Third-party apps that hide faces and remove meta
There have been a variety of apps recently that can be used to hide faces and remove metadata for iOS and Android devices. You may find it easier to use one of them.
For example, the encrypted messaging app Signal has announced a new face blur tool that will integrate with the latest Android and iOS versions of the software.
There are also basic efforts such as Image Scrubber that allow you to upload images for blurring and scrubbing in a browser on your device and then save the anonymous version back on your device. This is great as it works on all devices, mobile devices and desktops.
If you already use apps for editing and enhancing photos, you may also be able to use them for blurring. With apps like Glitche (iOS) and Glitch Lab (Android) you can work pixelated over selected areas, and with Trigraphy (iOS) you can create mosaic effects. If you want to take photos now and later remove the meta, you can use the above apps or photo apps like Halide (iOS) and Snapseed (Android).
Ultimately, the method you choose depends on how much work you want to do during or after the fact. For me, I would take photos, edit them in the phone photo app, take a screenshot – and then delete the originals. Because if your device is unlocked and you have the originals there, you may have done this work for nothing.