The quest for a more trustworthy internet got a much-needed boost today. Adobe, BBC, Arm, Intel, Microsoft, and Truepic have announced the formation of the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity or C2PA. Truepic is proud to be among the founding members of such an important project.
The past year has unquestionably proven the intrinsic value of, and the dire need for, trustworthy information on the internet. Overwhelmed by a deluge of information about everything from the pandemic to the US elections, it is no wonder that many found it difficult to tell what is true from what is misrepresented or misunderstood or what is outright false.
No single technological solution can solve the problem of truth online; the problem is much bigger than technology alone. Inextricably tied to the issues we’ve collectively grappled with over the past several years are the complexities of human psychology, the architecture and incentive structures of our information ecosystem, and the difficult choice of whether or not to give equal reach to all voices, even those seeking to divide and cause harm.
But we can, perhaps, find some moorings among these turbulent waters. Sadly, we now know that online lies can lead to physical offline harm—and, conversely, that having a shared sense of reality can help reduce the chances of such harm. We also know that while technology is not a silver bullet, it can provide helpful signals that augment non-technological solutions if thoughtfully designed and implemented.
The C2PA aims to provide a new generation of those helpful signals. It is chartered with the development of technical standards for capturing and conveying trustworthy information about digital content—photos, videos, audio recordings, documents, and more—to viewers, listeners, and readers. Far from making a binary decision of “real/fake” about a piece of content, the C2PA approach is rather to faithfully convey objective statements of fact about the content to the recipient, thereby augmenting their ability to decide whether or not to trust it.
Far from being yet another standards body, Truepic believes that there are a few defining characteristics of C2PA that provide ample reasons for optimism that it will achieve its objectives. Here are a few.
It is Explicitly Pursuing a Provenance Approach to Authentication
Authenticating content via trustworthy provenance information is a far more straightforward process than using non-scalable human expertise or structurally disadvantaged algorithms. This is the fundamental technology thesis that Truepic was founded on.
The catch, of course, is that trustworthy provenance data has to be established at the moment of the content’s inception. If the system were to work as it should, the availability of provenance information for content should become the norm rather than the exception. Both will take time and require upgrades of several key components of the internet’s infrastructure, which brings us to the next bit of good news about C2PA.
It is Backed by Some of the Most Influential Leaders in their Respective Areas, with More to Come
Taking a look at the founding members of C2PA, they represent a deep and wide cross-section of the technology stack for creating, processing, and publishing content.
Adobe, Arm, BBC, Intel, and Microsoft are all venerable leaders in their respective areas, spanning hardware, software, platforms, and services. And Truepic has been the steadfast champion of the provenance approach to media authentication from its founding and has continuously broken new technological ground with its award-winning secure camera technology.
It is Developing an Open Standard
The key to making provenance-based content authentication a successful technology is removing barriers to its wide adoption. That is why C2PA’s standards will be open, with W3C-style intellectual property licensing terms.
An open standard will help accelerate the adoption of the technology into capture devices, authoring and editing tools, viewing apps, browsers, operating systems, and common software libraries and frameworks, thereby removing barriers to making provenance-infused content the norm rather than the exception.
It will Provide a Shared Technical Foundation for Many Use Cases
Consider the following scenarios:
- Empowering a viewer to evaluate the trustworthiness of a photo accompanying a news article;
- Empowering a photographer to take credit for her creative work;
- Empowering a family to know the true condition of the property they’re considering renting for their vacation;
- Empowering an insurance company to process a customer’s claim quickly while reducing the cost of fraud; or,
- Empowering a citizen journalist to document the abuses of the powerful in his community without revealing his identity.
What do all these use cases have in common? They can all benefit from provenance-infused content. The C2PA will provide the common technical foundation to address these use cases and more. Requirements for industry-or use-case-specific workflows will continue to be gathered by groups such as the CAI and Project Origin (and possibly others in the future), then fed into C2PA to help guide its work.
While the group’s work is strongly motivated by a desire to stem the tide of disinformation in the wider media ecosystem, the technology being developed in C2PA will be equally applicable to briding trust gaps for business and personal transactions of all kinds, from banking to dating to peer-to-peer commerce, and more.
What Comes Next
The C2PA’s work begins now. The group is driving towards a first version of the specification addressing common content types within the next 12 months, with relevant prototyping, interoperability testing, and field testing along the way.
If you’re interested in contributing to the C2PA’s work, don’t hesitate to get in touch with [email protected]