New Face Recognition Application, The Anonymous Camera

New Face Recognition Application, The Anonymous Camera

Our faces have never been more vulnerable. Facial recognition algorithms make it easy to identify individuals from a single snap. Thus, that fact is particularly relevant during these times of protest. Nevertheless, it is also easier than ever before to anonymize videos and photos. One can do this with the help of advances in machine learning by removing information that would otherwise identify people. The latest example of that is a new camera application, Anonymous Camera. Today, it launched on the iOS App Store. This is the work of a London artificial intelligence startup, Playground. The founders of Playground built the application with the help of investigative journalists who wanted an easy way to record anonymous footage. It is, however, not a silver bullet for privacy. Nevertheless, Anonymous Camera is offering the most easy-to-use and comprehensive features we have seen in an application of its kind.

Anonymous Camera utilizes machine learning to identify people in videos and images. It then blocks out, blurs, or pixels whole bodies or entire faces. It is essential to be able to block out all of these features together. This is because the reversal of some pixelation and blurring methods do exist. Individuals are often identifiable not just by their faces but by their tattoos, clothing, and other identifiable markers.

Moreover, the application can distort voices in videos. It then strips any metadata that is automatically embedded in files by phones and cameras. This data could consist of the time you took a video or photo and, depending on your privacy settings, where you made it. Even if you anonymize individuals in photos, that information can reveal a lot, whether it is shared accidentally online or retrieved later when a device is analyzed.

Anonymous Camera

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, Anonymous Camera processes content in real-time on users’ devices. That is something that was not possible before recent advances in artificial intelligence. That means photos or videos only exist in their original state for a brief time, as the application amends them. Thus, if someone’s phone is confiscated later, there will be no uncensored files available. The Verge has been testing it out in London, including during new Black Lives Matter protests. It is not a perfect tool for anonymizing crowd shots in rallies. Nevertheless, it made anonymizing close-up videos and photos of individuals and small groups critically simple.


Aaron Abentheuer and Gabriel Mitchel are co-founders of Playground. They told The Verge that they had the inspiration to create an anonymous camera due to real-life events. Specifically, after reading about journalists in the United Arab Emirates. Those journalists were writing about the persecution of LGBT groups. Abentheuer said that it is especially vital that whenever you take a photo of someone in the United Arab Emirates, you must be incredibly careful about anonymizing it immediately. People tend to capture footage and then anonymize it with the help of Photoshop. Nevertheless, in the meantime, the government may have confiscated their camera. Thus, with the phone, they can get any compromising material.

Let us see what happens later on with this application.


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