Signal update blurs faces on the privacy-focused messaging app

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Signal
Signal is blurring out faces in the app and... reality?
Photo: Signal

In its latest update, encrypted mobile messaging app Signal adds tools for blurring faces to better anonymize images. If a face isn’t detected by the tool — or some other piece of sensitive information is included in the image — users can blur areas manually.

In a blog post announcing the change, which is rolling out to the iOS and Android versions of the app, Signal co-founder Moxie Marlinspike makes clear the overtly political reason for the update:

“Right now, people around the world are marching and protesting against racism and police brutality, outraged by the most recent police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. At Signal, we support the people who have gone into the streets to make their voices heard. We believe that something in America needs to change, and even if we don’t know exactly how, we support and trust in the people who are self-organizing around the country to figure it out.

Many of the people and groups who are organizing for that change are using Signal to communicate, and we’re working hard to keep up with the increased traffic. We’ve also been working to figure out additional ways we can support everyone in the street right now.”

Sending the right Signals

Signal automatically encrypts messages by default. It does the same thing with metadata like who you are talking with. Messages can be made to self-destruct and may also be sent anonymously.

Evidence of how little data Signal retains was seen in 2016. That year, the company was subpoenaed for information it held.

Signal revealed that it only had access to data about when an account was created and when users accessed its servers. For this reason, it is a favored messaging app of the European Commission and others.

Signal is available to download via the App Store.