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Serelay: Start taking verifiable, trustable photos with your mobile phone today

Serelay: Start taking verifiable, trustable photos with your mobile phone today

 

 

Our brain can process visual images in as little as 13 milliseconds. A glance is all it takes. Based on the intake, our brain starts to process the information. This outstanding ability is part of the problem: Our way of processing images means that manipulated visuals have a big impact. We see something, we notice it. It is easy to do damage, but difficult to correct the impression we got.

A need for better verifiable visual content

And this, particularly, is why there is such a strong need to have better tools to verify visual content. The rise of manipulated content has many reasons. Two are most important: Firstly, there are tools enabling almost undetectable visual manipulation. Many of these tools have been developed for photo and video artists, from advertising to film making in Hollywood. But these advanced technologies can be used to create misinformation, too.

Secondly, the standards for uploading visual content are still low. Everyone with a mobile phone can take a screenshot, upload it to a social media platform and claim whatever they like. False rumours combined with emotion can have similar effects as propaganda. Many content management platforms allow the uploading of photos or videos without demanding data as to the copyright of the material or other information. This missing info makes it even harder for fact-checkers to determine the correctness of the material.  

A smart approach towards verifiable visuals

This is where Serelay,  a startup from the UK, comes in: The company offers a way to enable the creation of verifiable photos that is effective and can be used right away. The approach does not affect the user’s privacy. All you have to do is to download the Serelay app. Located in Oxford, the company has created a full circle solution to enable verifiable information. The process works with both photos and videos.

Data points added to a photo at the moment of capture

But how does this work? Serelay has pioneered a process described as “trusted media capture”.  The software records between 300 and 500 data points to an image at the moment when it is captured. These data points are then linked to the media item. This added information is compressed, to be less than 15kb per capture. This is important, given the number of pictures taken. With 15kb there is minimal mobile bandwidth needed. The battery of a mobile device is not considerably drained. 

While the technology is complex, using it is very simple. As a user download and install the Serelay apps and then start taking photos with highly extended verification options.

And another, important aspect: While the additional data can be used to verify the photo, there is no information stored about the user. Serelay provides higher transparency for the media item, but without exposing the photo creator in unwanted ways.

Enabling verification in under 30 seconds

Taking photos is one side of the coin, being able to verify such material is the other: Serelay says that any photo or video captured can be queried for authenticity in under 30 seconds, by running it through software. The analysis can spot whether even one pixel or video frame has changed.

Screenshot of Serelay software features

The Serelay software enables to add and later check multiple data points of a photo for verification. This includes 3D detection (to ensure the photo is not just a screenshot), the location and the time the image was taken. Source: Serelay.

Example: Where was the photo taken?

The Serelay software can determine, too, whether the photo was taken outside (“in a valid 3D event”). This can help to determine that the image is not just a screenshot taken on a laptop. The software further validates time and location, using real-time third-party datasets. An algorithm developed by Serelay will further check for anomalies. The verification software can be accessed through a user interface. For media organisations and others having to verify many such visuals, there is an option to automate the process through APIs. The Serelay documentation can be found here.

Interview with the Founder

We talked to Roy Azoulay, founder and executive director of Serelay

Roy Azoulay, Serelay

Q: What is your background?

Roy Azoulay: “I come from a physics and computer science background, I spent the start of my career as a software engineer and team leader. I then completed an MBA at the University of Oxford and following this ended up setting up and running a successful startup incubator for the university.”

Q: Can you describe what Serelay offers?

“Serelay believes that photos and videos should be captured in a way that is inherently verifiable. Serelay captured photos and videos can be queried for the authenticity of content, time and location, quickly conclusively and at scale.”

Q: How did you get to this point in development with Serelay? How did it evolve?

“We developed our initial concept with funding from Google through it’s Digital News Initiative Fund and with support from the European Space Agency. Then, after almost a year of testing and tightening so that the technology could comply with the toughest data protection regulations and the highest journalistic standards in the world, we deployed our solution with one of the world’s most reputable news media organisations, the newspaper The Guardian in the UK. This was a landmark collaboration. In our original design, Serelay compliant photos needed to be captured either by a Serelay camera app, or our SDK embedded in a third-party app with camera functionality. We have recently launched a new architecture called ‘React’ which enables the creation of Serelay-compliant photos, using a mobile device’s stock camera app.”

Q: How important is the use of blockchain?

“We do not use blockchain at the moment as we are happy to collaborate with partners in the space. While we can certainly see the value of recording origin metadata on an immutable ledger, a blockchain implementation also introduces complexity – for example, we currently give users the option to delete all of their photos’ metadata from our database in just a few clicks, in a different scenario –  we may retroactively revoke the veracity credentials of a certain phone model or operating system version where a security vulnerability is uncovered. These matters require a carefully designed blockchain implementation, possibly with different implementation architectures for different use cases. We see ourselves as a technology partner for such implementations, it is unlikely we will do one in-house.”

Q: What are the next steps to establish this technology for wider use? Are you already working with media or other organisations?

“I mentioned our work with The Guardian. We will also unveil a collaboration with a global software giant in March 2021.”

Q: What is your take on the future of trustable content?

“I believe it is in the metadata. A common language to communicate content authenticity and the capability to immutably embed it in a media file can have far-reaching effects. The Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI)  led by Adobe is doing just that.” (Editors note: See info about the CAI below.)

Q: What is the next step for Serelay?

“Our next step will be to add immutable origin metadata, compliant with the emerging CAI standard, to our existing product line.”

What are the options to use Serelay?

“Serelay offers two free apps which add verification data to photos taken with mobile phones, for Android and Apple phones. They differ in terms of integration.”

Thank You for the interview.


Download options: 

  • Serelay Idem enables capturing verifiable photos and videos, through Serelay’s own camera app. To install the app there is no registration needed, to ensure that the privacy of the user is kept. For verification, the app will rely on nearby Wifi signals and other data points. Download: https://www.serelay.com/our-products/idem/
  • Serelay React does the same, but can directly use the stock camera of the device. Users install the app once and every photo/video they snap on their stock camera is ‘synched’ by React for content, time and location verifiability. How it works is described on the Download page.

Available SDKs enable a further extension of the functionalities to third party apps. Using the Idem SDK companies can add in-app Trusted Media Capture™. The React SDK enables even deeper integration to any photo or video taken with the camera on the device, so there is no need for the user to firstly open the Serelay photo app.


Info: What is the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI)?

The initiative was started in 2019 by Adobe, The New York Times Company and Twitter.  By now, several additional companies have joined the group. The goal is to create an accepted standard of how to enable trustable content. The initiative identified detection, education and better ways for attribution as key goals towards better handling of content.
Quote from the website: “The Content Authenticity Initiative is building a system to provide provenance and history for digital media, giving creators a tool to claim authorship and empowering consumers to evaluate whether what they are seeing is trustworthy.” Link

More information:

MIT News: In the blink of an eye

Forbes:  “Fake-News Makers, Beware: This Firm Claims It Can Oust A Photo With One Fake Pixel”

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Correction note: An earlier version of the article described Roy Azoulay as “founder and CEO”. This has been corrected, he is the “founder and executive director” of the company. 

The initiative was started in 2019 by Adobe, The New York Times Company and Twitter By now, several additional companies have joined the group. The goal is to create an accepted standard of how to enable trustable content. The initiative identified detection, education and better ways for attribution as key goals towards better handling of content.
Quote from the website: “The Content Authenticity Initiative is building a system to provide provenance and history for digital media, giving creators a tool to claim authorship and empowering consumers to evaluate whether what they are seeing is trustworthy.” Link

More information:

MIT News: In the blink of an eye

Forbes:  “Fake-News Makers, Beware: This Firm Claims It Can Oust A Photo With One Fake Pixel”

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Correction note: An earlier version of the article described Roy Azoulay as “founder and CEO”. This has been corrected, he is the “founder and executive director” of the company. 

Webinar: How to Apply to the TruBlo Open Call #1

Webinar: How to Apply to the TruBlo Open Call #1

The TruBlo webinar on 26 February at 10:00 CET provides information about the TruBlo Open Call No. 1 with presentations from TruBlo partners.

Questions we cover:

  • What is the scope, who can apply?
  • How to apply?
  • How will partner Alastria provide technical support with blockchain infrastructure?
  • How will partner ATC provide business support?

There is an opportunity for interested applicants to put their questions to the TruBlo team in a Q&A session following the presentations.

What is your idea or concept for the next-generation technology for distributed trust? If this is your area of work, why not consider an application? The TruBlo project is calling for researchers, innovators and developers from academia, startups, high tech companies or natural person(s).

  • A total budget of € 950.000 is available.
  • Opening date: 18 January 2021, 12:00 CET
  • Closing date: 19 March 2021, 17:00 CET

Contents of the webinar:

  • 10:00 Toni Paradell from Worldline and Mirko Lorenz from Deutsche Welle Introduction
  • 10:02 Antonis Litke from NTUA Objectives and Scientific challenges
  • 10:10 Violeta Vasileva from F6S The Open Call application
  • 10:22 Montse Guardia from Alastria TruBlo Technical Infrastructure
  • 10:32 Anna Triantafillou from ATC Technical, Business and Support Services
  • 10:40 Question & Answer Session
  • 11:00 End

Register here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1897848742122124815

Further details about TruBlo and Open Call #1 are provided here:

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

TruBlo Newsletter #4

TruBlo Newsletter #4


TruBlo 1st Open Call – join until March 19, 2021.

Up to €175.000 for ideas applicable to trustable content on future blockchains. Apply here


Updates this week:

Trust and Content


Bitcoin Bubble

There is a speculation bubble forming, based on the rise of the Bitcoin price. Stories of lucky people who got in early now pull in others. Everyone wants a piece of the cake. This is how bubbles evolve and why they result in damage when they burst. 

Why so negative? Because what is going on is too much, too fast. Digital money and trustable finance platforms have yet to pass a real stress test. There is much refinement needed and ultimately some form of regulation. But a boom-and-bust cycle will likely just ignore such warnings and concerns.

Misleading signals are part of the problem. Tesla made headlines because the company invested $1,5 billion in Bitcoin. 

Many see this as the moment cryptocurrencies are validated as the new normal. This is not the case, instead it is just a perception caused by an overrepresentation of such events in the news. Everyone in the current market is a speculator.

Different from small investors who might even borrow money to get into crypto, Tesla uses funds which it does not immediately need. In a recent annual report Tesla said the Bitcoin transaction would help to “diversify and maximize returns on our cash that is not required to maintain adequate operating liquidity”. LINK

The European Central Bank (ECB) has issued stern warnings that investors can “lose all their money” when investing in cryptocurrencies. See, for example, this ECB publication: “The future of money – innovating while retaining trust”. LINK


New industry alliance: Digital Trust and Safety Partnership

Leading technology companies established a new industry framework to handle harmful content and conduct online. It is called the “Digital Trust and Safety Partnership”. 

The companies who have joined are Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Discord, Pinterest, Shopify and Vimeo. But so far the goal is simply to develop guidelines, not a rigid set of rules to fight the problem. Needs work. LINK


Wordproof: Timestamping content to verify digital articles

Wordproof from Amsterdam offers a way to “timestamp” an online article. This information is stored in a blockchain. This enables to determine who published something and when. Potentially search engines will consider such information, so that original and unique content can be displayed with preference. Interesting.
LINK


Why changes to the “Identifier for Advertisers” are a big deal

Apple is in dispute with the mobile advertising industry, caused by intended changes to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Apple wants to ensure that iPhone users can keep their data private, this is why the company has announced more restrictive handling. For platforms which depend on advertising this likely causes a disruption. Facebook is strongly opposed to the changes. This is another evolving debate about the future internet. Because of multiple complaints the introduction of the changes was postponed to early 2021. LINK


BLOCKCHAIN


Promising European blockchain start-ups

A good article here, via EU startups. The list includes companies like Settlemint (Belgium), Odem (Switzerland) and DappRadar (Lithuania). The challenge is that many of these companies started during the hype over blockchain in 2018. There is a need for updated information on these efforts. In the coming weeks, TruBlo aims to reach out for updates. LINK


eWallet loyalty

We recommend, for inspiration towards new ideas: “The Future 100”, a well-researched trend report from WundermanThompson, an advertising agency. The study of hundred trends is interesting as it covers so many areas, from trends in interior design to innovative tech platforms. 

One of the hundred predictions is the rise of eWallets. It makes sense to be able to pay with a device we all have in our pockets, the mobile phone. One early finding related to eWallets is that users are quite loyal to the application they initially selected – similar to sticking with a bank for a long time.LINK 


What are NFTs (Non-fungible tokens)?

NFT is the acronym for “non-fungible tokens”. If you heard about this, but could not really fathom what “fungible” means, you are not alone. 

So what are NFTs? Let’s start with the big difference: If you get one Bitcoin it does not matter which one it is, all coins are the same. This is what the economic term “fungible” describes. Gold is fungible, too: If you get one gold coin it is irrelevant which one you get.

NFTs are non-fungible. They are unique tokens and can be used for just one, specific digital item. This can range from collectables to digital art to a piece of land in a digital world. 

For example: Imagine you are playing a digital game where items can be collected and traded. You might have a helmet, a sword and a pet dragon. Each of these three items would then have their unique NFT. They would establish ownership (you can proof, you are the owner). They are indivisible, one can not sell half of the sword you have, only the full item. 

NFTs can not be destroyed, the coded connection is always valid. They are in possession of the owner. In other words, NFTs enable the market to trade digital goods. While the token is unique, the price is not. Based on supply and demand the price of an item represented through NFTs may rise or fall. When pet dragons are in short supply next time, be ready. LINK


Do you have feedback or suggestions? Contact us


Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Disinformation that kills (Study)

Disinformation that kills (Study)

Disinformation That Kills: The Expanding Battlefield Of Digital Warfare – Analysis

How do disinformation campaigns work and what are the different types of attacks? Social media has turned into a digital battlefield. Because so many people are online building a false narrative to influence a society has become one facet the information warfare. “False information about major events from the Covid-19 outbreak to the 2020 US election is jeopardizing public health and safety.” The report (free download after registration) provides helpful information about the current situation. Further the authors provide an outlook how misinformation will most likely change in the future.

CB Insights

Infographic:

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Truth and Trust Online Conference 2020

Truth and Trust Online Conference 2020

When: October 16th & 17th
Where: The Internet (virtual event)

Why it matters:
The Conference for Truth and Trust Online (TTO 2020) assembles stakeholders that care about “improving the truthfulness and trustworthiness of online communications”. This includes media scholars, journalists, activists, or industry representatives. Talks and sessions deal with all kinds of social media and information problems – and potential countermeasures.

Who is there?
Trust in online media/news is one of our core topics in many research projects. Especially when it comes to the narrower field of verification, fact checking, and countering false information.

At TTO 2020, Ruben Bouwmeesterand Patrick Aichroth (Fraunhofer IDMT)  will discuss Deepfakes detection, or more specifically: the ongoing Google DNI project Digger, which is about detecting manipulated and synthetic media with the help of audio forensics technology. The talk will have a focus on “the challenges of transferring scientific expertise into the media domain, making it intelligible and usable to non-forensics experts, and the importance of adopting a ‘falsification culture’ for media”. 

To learn more about the event and register as a participant, go to truthandtrustonline.com