Signal is adding automatic face blurring to help protesters

A phone sticking out of a pants pocket with the Google Play page for Signal Private Messenger displayed on the phone's screen.
(Image credit: Postmodern Studio/Shutterstock)

Signal, the open-source secure-messaging app whose encryption protocol is also used by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, plans to introduce a new feature to let you quickly blur people's faces when sharing photos with the app.

"Right now, people around the world are marching and protesting against racism and police brutality," Signal founder and CEO Moxie Marlinspike wrote in a blog post yesterday (June 3). "At Signal, we support the people who have gone into the streets to make their voices heard."

A photo of two women at a protest with their faces blurred out.

(Image credit: Signal)

"One immediate thing seems clear," added Marlinspike. "2020 is a pretty good year to cover your face."

The next update of Signal, released to Apple and Google but not yet present in their app stores, will add a new photo-editing feature that detects faces and blurs them at the touch of a button. Users will also be able to manually blur areas in the photo, Marlinspike said.

A screen splice showing instructions on a button to 'blur faces or draw anywhere to blur'.

(Image credit: Signal)

"Now it's easy to give every face a hiding place, or draw a fuzzy trace over something you want to erase," Marlinspike wrote. "Simply tap on the new blur tool icon to get started."

Marlinspike added that Signal would soon be producing and giving away "versatile face coverings." Presumably those could be used both to reduce the spread of coronavirus and to protect the identities of protesters.

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.