How Digital Signatures in Cameras Can Fight Fake Images

Fake images are becoming more prevalent and convincing, posing a threat to the credibility of online content. To counter this, camera makers Nikon, Sony, and Canon are developing technology that will embed digital signatures in their cameras, providing proof of origin and integrity for the images.

Digital signatures are a form of encryption that can be used to verify the authenticity and integrity of digital data. They contain information such as the date, time, location, and photographer of the image, and are resistant to tampering. They can also be used to sign documents, emails, and transactions online.

Digital signatures are created using a pair of keys: a private key and a public key. The private key is kept secret by the owner, while the public key is shared with others. The private key is used to generate a signature for the data, while the public key is used to verify the signature. If the data or the signature is altered, the verification will fail.

How Digital Signatures in Cameras Can Fight Fake Images
How Digital Signatures in Cameras Can Fight Fake Images

Why do camera makers need digital signatures?

Camera makers need digital signatures to combat the rising threat of fake images, especially those created or manipulated by artificial intelligence (AI). Fake images, also known as deepfakes, can be used to spread misinformation, defame people, or influence public opinion. For example, this year, deepfake videos of former US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida went viral, raising questions about the trustworthiness of online content.

Camera makers also need digital signatures to protect the credibility of their customers, especially professionals such as photojournalists, who rely on the accuracy and integrity of their work. Digital signatures can help them prove the source and validity of their images, and prevent unauthorized use or alteration.

How are camera makers implementing digital signatures?

Nikon, Sony, and Canon are working on embedding digital signatures in their cameras, which will act as proof of origin and integrity for the images. Nikon will offer this feature in its mirrorless cameras, while Sony and Canon will incorporate it in their professional-grade mirrorless SLR cameras. The three camera giants have agreed on a global standard for digital signatures, which will make them compatible with a web-based tool called Verify.

Verify, launched by an alliance of global news organizations, technology companies, and camera makers, will allow anyone to check the credentials of an image for free. Verify will display the relevant information if an image has a digital signature. If artificial intelligence creates or alters an image, Verify will flag it as having “No Content Credentials”.

The new camera technology is expected to be available by 2024. Sony will lead the charge with a spring 2024 release, followed by Canon later that year. Sony is also exploring the extension of this technology to videos, while Canon is developing a similar video authentication technology. The companies have already conducted field tests with media outlets like The Associated Press.

How are other technology companies joining the fight against fake images?

Other technology companies are also joining the fight against fake images. 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 need for such technology is evident, as fake images are becoming more sophisticated and widespread. For instance, China’s Tsinghua University researchers have developed a new generative AI technology called a latent consistency model, which can produce about 700,000 images daily. These images are so realistic that they can fool human eyes and existing detection methods.

Digital signatures in cameras are a promising step towards leveraging technology to ensure a sustainable, trustworthy, and secure online environment.

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