Camera Makers Unite to Combat Deepfake Threat with Digital Signatures

Deepfake technology, which uses artificial intelligence to create or alter images and videos, poses a serious challenge to the credibility and trustworthiness of online content. To counter this threat, camera makers Nikon, Sony, and Canon are developing new technology that embeds digital signatures in images and videos, which can verify their authenticity and integrity.

Digital signatures are tamper-resistant codes that contain information such as the date, time, location, and photographer of the image or video. They are embedded in the camera’s firmware and are compatible with a web-based tool called Verify, which was launched by an alliance of global news organizations, technology companies, and camera makers. Anyone can use Verify to check the credentials of an image or video for free. If the content has a digital signature, Verify will display the relevant information. If the content has been created or modified by artificial intelligence, Verify will flag it as having “No Content Credentials”.

Camera Makers Unite to Combat Deepfake Threat with Digital Signatures
Camera Makers Unite to Combat Deepfake Threat with Digital Signatures

Digital signatures are based on a global standard that was agreed upon by Nikon, Sony, and Canon, which together control around 90% of the global camera market. The new technology will be available in their flagship mirrorless cameras, which are popular among photojournalists and other professionals who need to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their work.

Why Digital Signatures Are Needed

The need for digital signatures is evident, as deepfake technology becomes more advanced and accessible. In 2023, several deepfake videos of prominent figures such as former US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida went viral, raising questions about the potential impact of fake content on politics, society, and security. Moreover, researchers from China’s Tsinghua University developed a new generative AI technology called a latent consistency model, which can produce about 700,000 images daily, making it harder to distinguish between real and fake images.

Digital signatures can help prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation, as well as protect the rights and reputation of content creators and subjects. They can also enhance the quality and value of online content, as users can trust the source and validity of the information they consume.

How Others Are Joining the Fight

Nikon, Sony, and Canon are not the only ones who are joining the fight against deepfake technology. Other technology companies are also developing tools and methods to detect and prevent fake content. For example:

  • Google has released a tool that adds invisible digital watermarks to AI-generated pictures, which can be detected by another tool.
  • Intel has developed technology that can analyze the skin color changes of subjects in images, which indicate the blood flow under their skin, and use that to determine the image’s authenticity.
  • Hitachi is working on technology to prevent online identity fraud by verifying user images.

The new camera technology is expected to be available by 2024. Sony will release it in the spring of 2024, and Canon will follow suit later that year. Nikon has not announced a specific date, but has said that it will offer the feature in its mirrorless cameras.

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