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Mounir Ibrahim
VP, Strategic initiatives @ Truepic

5 min read

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Sep 30, 2021 The Index Project Award Recognizes Need for Online Visual Trust

Mounir Ibrahim | VP, Strategic initiatives @ Truepic | 5 min read

This has been a significant month for Truepic. We began September by announcing our fundraise led by M12, Microsoft’s venture arm, and today we are honored to be selected as one of the five winners of the 2021 Index Project Award.

This has been a significant month for Truepic. We began September by announcing our fundraise led by M12, Microsoft’s venture arm, and today we are honored to be selected as one of the five winners of the 2021 Index Project Award. Founded in 2002, The Index Project foundation pushes the boundaries of design-for-good by focusing on design that solves real needs in our society — what we call ‘design to improve life.’ This award is quite meaningful to us and we would like to briefly explain why.

From Online Dating to Human Rights Documentation

In 2017, it was estimated that the world captured well over 1.2 trillion digital images annually, we can only assume that figure has grown significantly. Further, over the past 18 months, we have also seen the world increase its reliance on digital communication and information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, digital imagery is only becoming more intertwined with our work, lives, and decision making. Simultaneously, advances in artificial Intelligence and editing tools have made it possible to easily manipulate or wholly synthesize media for malicious or deception purposes. This juxtaposition of reliance and manipulation of digital media have real effects on our world and society.

In business, COVID-19 accelerated a pre-existing trend: the digitization of financial and enterprise transactions, most of which involve image capture/display as a critical component. Digitizing transactions brings benefits of speed, ease, and convenience for businesses and their customers. However, one notable concern is trust — how can businesses and their customers trust that financial decisions are being made off of high-integrity and trustworthy imagery? The proliferation and ease of image falsification technology gives fraudsters the necessary tools to deceive underprepared businesses.. Such fraud will often raise costs for all consumers. For example, fraudsters submit falsified insurance claims with manipulated imagery, which raises rates for all insured with a specific company/industry. The FBI estimates that the annual cost of non-health insurance fraud to be over $40 billion. Some of the worst types of insurance fraud occur during acute crises like natural disasters in which the government and insurers are working to provide support quickly and rapidly to victims in compressed time frames. We have proven, with many of our partners, that introducing a trust layer into a digitized process accelerates support with trust and efficiency, while protecting the business and consumers from fraud. In the case of natural disasters, authenticated provenance-based imagery provides much needed trust that helps support to victims far faster than ever before. This is just a snapshot on how authenticated media will meet the needs of a changing world and consumer base in business.

In society, we are seeing similar patterns with arguably worse consequences. Much like private industry, we are digitizing our lives in rapid succession and making important personal and trust decisions based on what we see and hear online. On a daily basis, people are forming opinions, making voting decisions or making deep personal connections based on what they see online. The same issues plaguing businesses are also felt by everyday people — how do you know you are making decisions based off of high-integrity and trustworthy media? The FTC reported that the median loss to online dating scams was approximately $2,600 per victim — totaling in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Much of this fraud starts from one manipulated or falsified image on a web platform and spirals from there.

Visual identity fraud extends beyond romance and into media, elections, and voting too. Truepic’s technology is helping address this problem by supporting organizations helping to inform the general public. One of Truepic’s grantees is Ballotpedia, the United States’ top political encyclopedia, which runs a popular survey to help verify and educate the voting public on political candidates throughout the country. In early 2020, a motivated student managed to generate a false identity, submit a Ballotpedia survey, and, as a result, get the verified blue check mark from Twitter. This episode highlighted how unsophisticated actors could easily create fake identities and spread disinformation. Soon after, Ballotpedia was awarded a Truepic grant for pro-bono usage of its Vision platform to help verify images submitted through its survey. To date, Truepic has helped Ballotpedia verify over 1,000 political candidates in 49 states around the country. Another example of how image authenticity can be used to empower organizations to help provide accurate information to decision makers.

Empowering Any Application

Our success thus far has been affirming and we aim to scale our technology to help more and more people. Truepic is developing its next product — Lens — which will allow any business, organization, or platform, to embed our image authentication technology directly into its application. This will deliver the option of secure media capture directly to consumers who are capturing images for business or personal use through any mobile application. Whether it is an online dating profile, insurance claim, or citizen journalism effort — this gives the user the option to attach provenance information to an image and relay trust to whom they are sending the image. This innovation coincides with the development of the world’s first open standard on digital content provenance by the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA). We believe that soon millions of people around the world will have the ability to capture secure media and have it ingested and displayed on many of the websites, businesses, and platforms they engage with daily.

Oftentimes trust in visual imagery is only considered within specific parameters like disinformation, consumer fraud, or media. However, at Truepic, we see the whole spectrum and it is clear — integrity and trust in what we see and hear online touches nearly every aspect of our lives in both business and society. We believe that our technology and mission will help solve this real issue in our society. This recognition by the Index Project is incredibly affirming for our entire team and helps drive our passion to continue our work to improve people’s daily lives. We are honored and grateful for the recognition.