Sony unveils certification system to fight photo tampering

Sony’s latest full-frame sensor box benefits from a licensing system activating a certification function for shots captured by the camera. This system based on encryption technologies makes it possible to immediately detect any modification of the image.

Camera processors are more and more efficient, and Sony has found a very interesting use for its Bionz XR chip: certifying the authenticity of photos. The system currently only works on the latest full-frame sensor hybrid box launched by the brand, the Alpha A7 Mark IV. Through a licensing system which Sony has not yet given us all the outlines, professional users (the target initially) will be able to activate the functionality in their device.

Based on encryption technologies, this system will allow the processor to create a digital signature in the file. Like a checksum (checksum in English), but with (theoretically) unforgeable cryptographic bases, this small mark inside the file makes it possible to verify its authenticity. According to Sony, ” any modification of a pixel, any alteration, any potential fraud will invalidate the signature of the image, and the client’s certification server will detect the manipulation during its examination. »

The fields targeted by Sony are those requiring confidence in the integrity of an image which can have a function of proof, such as in the press (fight against disinformation), the medical field, the judicial chain (photos of police surveillance) or that of insurance “for the documentation of claims for example”, according to the press release.

The technology seems to have no interest in leisure shots or shots of landscapes, nature, etc. But if it does not affect the performance of the device, it can prove interesting a posteriori, in particular to fight against misinformation. In a world in which any image can both be proof or be challenged and refuted (without proof!), this kind of technology can provide a necessary piece of software to restore trust. In an art which, from its beginnings, had to face counterfeiting attacks.

The Content Authenticity Initiative workflow and certification. This association brings together media, social media, chip designers and imaging software companies, who jointly develop technologies to certify the veracity of our images. Sony is curiously absent from the initiative and makes no mention of it in its press release.

Surprisingly enough, Sony does not cite the Content Authenticity Initiative – and after verification, is not even a member. Initiated by The New York Times, Adobe and Twitter in 2019 – and since joined by Nikon, Qualcomm or Nvidia – this association seeks precisely to set up tools, standards (precisely, encryption), workflows, components, etc. Allowing to prove the veracity of the content of the images, in particular of press or potentially legal exploitation.

If Sony starts with the A7 Mark IV (probably for chip power reasons), the Japanese manufacturer should integrate its certification technology into other boxes in the future.

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