Sony and the Associated Press (AP) have completed testing of advanced in-camera authenticity technology, promising to stem the tide of fake images and provide photographers and consumers the tools they need to verify photos.
With the continued proliferation and rapid improvement of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the need for content authenticity tools is as urgent as ever. While Sony joined the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA) last year, the move toward practical advancements in the ways users can authenticate and verify content has taken a bit of time. The lengthy wait is nearly over.
After extensive testing, which remains ongoing, the AP — which has exclusively outfitted its photographers with Sony gear since 2020 — and Sony have worked together to make what Sony describes as significant progress toward tackling the content authenticity issue.
Sony’s new in-camera solution creates a digital signature at the time of capture, and unlike Leica’s M11-P, Sony’s answer to the “fake news” problem does not require specialized hardware inside its cameras. Existing cameras, like the Sony a1 and a7S III will support in-camera signature and C2PA authentication alongside the upcoming Sony a9 III, which is slated to be a compelling new camera for many photojournalists.
With the upcoming authentication technology enabled, when a photo is captured, an unbreakable digital chain is crafted, ensuring that news outlets and the people they serve can see whether an image they’re looking at is genuine or has been manipulated.
“While the rapid evolution of generative AI brings new possibilities for creative expression, it has also led to growing concern about the impact of altered or manipulated imagery in journalism,” says Neal Manowitz, President and COO of Sony Electronics. “The dissemination of false information and images has real world social impact that brings harm not only to our photojournalist and news agency partners, but to society as a whole.”
“We care deeply about this challenge and are committed to using our resources to help solve it. Through Sony’s work on the steering committee for C2PA, we have helped set the current industry standard for the tracking of editing and manipulation of imagery. Additionally, our in-camera authenticity technology has shown valuable results, and we will continue to push its development towards a wider release.”
The AP’s Director of Photography, David Ake, adds, “Fake and manipulated images are a major concern for news organizations. Not only do they contribute to mis- and disinformation but ultimately, they erode the public’s trust in factual, accurate imagery. We are proud to be working alongside Sony Electronics to create an authentication solution that can help combat this problem.”
The most recent field test, which Sony says is the second testing phase, was completed in October and comprised a month of putting the digital signature and C2PA technology through its paces within a real-world photojournalism production workflow.
To ensure that the digital signature remained intact and didn’t disrupt professional workflows, Sony and the AP partnered with Camera Bits, the developer of popular workflow software Photo Mechanic to create technology in the app that preserves a camera’s digital signature through the metadata editing process.
“We appreciate the significant challenge that manipulated imagery poses for our partners, and we are highly motivated to play a role in helping solve it,” says Dennis Walker, President and Founder of Camera Bits. “Photo Mechanic has been used by the photojournalism industry for 25 years and continues to evolve as the industry introduces new technology. We are committed to ensuring Photo Mechanic remains a trusted and authentic workflow solution.”
Now that Sony’s in-camera authentication technology has proved its mettle in real-world testing by the AP, a source of daily news for more than half the world’s population, Sony is poised to bring the digital signature and C2PA technology to the majority of its flagship Alpha series cameras next spring.
The firmware update will not arrive a moment too soon. Lies disguised as facts hurt everyone and undercut societal and cultural trust in journalism. With the constant improvements in AI technology, the deceptions get more convincing (and dangerous) by the day. It is vital that members of the C2PA and CAI, like Sony, deliver practical, robust tools to combat this growing problem as soon as possible.
Image credits: Sony