Canon and Reuters Develop New Photo Authentication Technology

Canon and Reuters logos against a white background

Media conglomerate Thomson Reuters and Canon Inc. have announced a new proof of concept pilot program to certify digital images, addressing concerns about content’s legitimacy.

Alongside Starling Lab, an academic research lab based at Stanford University and the University of Southern California, Thomson Reuters and Canon have developed an end-to-end method for embedding information into an image at the time of capture that is preserved through the entire editing and publication process.

Utilizing the latest cryptographic methods and decentralized web protocols, Reuters, Canon, and Starling Lab suggest that the pilot program can “ease concerns about content’s legitimacy.”

The proof-of-concept technology demonstrates the preservation of an image’s metadata throughout the chain. Reuters successfully integrated Starling Lab’s authentication framework into its picture desk workflow.

“One of the first practical news-gathering applications of the technology, this pilot comes at a time when consumers are increasingly worried about their ability to distinguish between real and fake news on the internet, and recent advancements in generative AI technologies which are making it easier for anyone to create visuals to deceive or misinform viewers,” Canon explains.

“Trust in news is critical. However, recent technological advancements in image generation and manipulation are causing more people to question what is real, and what is not. Reuters continues to explore new technologies to guarantee that the content we deliver to the world be factual and trusted,” says Rickey Rogers, Global Editor, Reuters Pictures.

Rogers continues, “Our collaboration with Canon demonstrates the potential for new technology in image verification to increase consumers’ confidence that what they see is genuine. We look forward to sharing the encouraging findings from the project with our customers and applying them to protect our photojournalism. Our goal is to remain one of the most trusted global news sources.”

Reuters photojournalist Violeta Santos Moura captured photos using a prototype Canon camera during the pilot program. The prototype camera digitally assigns each image with unique identification and includes time, date, and capture location data.

Similar technology has been seen with camera-level provenance features in Nikon and Leica cameras. The two companies are part of the Content Authenticity Initiative.

The unique values are cryptographically signed to establish authenticity, and each photo is registered into a public blockchain. After each modification by the Reuters pictures desk, the blockchain is updated. The updating process continues until the photo is distributed, complete with preserved metadata, edit history, and blockchain registration embedded in the photograph using the C2PA standard.

“Many photojournalists rely on Canon technologies. We understand the role that images play in society and recognize the importance of preserving image authenticity,” says Richard Shepherd, Product Marketing and Marketing Strategy Senior Manager, Canon Europe Ltd. “Working as part of the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI), Canon wants to take meaningful measures to protect image outputs that serve the news community worldwide.”