On the Internet no one knows where or when you took this photo of a dog. Images can be reused and remixed online without leaving a trace, which is useful for those trying to spice up their Instagram feed, but also purveyors of misinformation.
A prototype app from San Diego-based startup Truepic aims to make smartphone photos and videos more reliable. Truepic worked with mobile chip maker Qualcomm to add a new mode to a smartphone’s camera that securely marks images with the time and location of their capture, allowing others to verify the correct one. faith of an image or a video. It could help a newsroom covering an ongoing disaster, such as a hurricane, decide whether to trust social media content claiming to show the damage.
The new feature is designed to support a digital imaging standard developed by a group called the Content Authenticity Initiative which includes Twitter, Adobe and The New York Times. This system will allow images and videos to be tagged with cryptographically encoded information about where and how they were captured. Any changes will leave a trace, allowing news outlets or others to track the lifespan of images they create or obtain from others.
This nascent standard will only have influence if people actually use it. Adobe has said it will build support into its flagship image enhancer, Photoshop, and the Times plans to test how photojournalists and editors can use the technology. The project by Truepic and Qualcomm is the first demonstration of how the schematic could be integrated into hardware. “We think the way to distribute it is to make it a native feature of the app that people use on their device,” says Sherif Hanna, vice president of Truepic.
The collaboration could be influential, as Qualcomm chips power Android smartphones from top brands, including Samsung. Manvinder Singh, vice president of Qualcomm, says device makers can incorporate the technology into future designs built on the company’s chips. “There is interest,” Singh says, although he refuses to name any companies. Support for a similar function on Apple devices would require a separate implementation, given the company’s custom-designed silicon chips.
The photo tagging code developed by Truepic runs in the secure area of the processor of a device that handles tasks such as processing payments or fingerprint scans. When a person puts the camera in secure mode, the pixels bypass the device’s operating system to protect them from tampering. A person using the device can take photos and videos as usual. The system offers great certainty that a photo was “created by light, not by some editing tool or AI,” Hanna explains.