Photo: Sony

Sony has announced the completion of a month-long field test with the Associated Press to evaluate the performance of C2PA in-camera authenticity technology. In addition to the hardware-signed authentication written by the camera, the tests included working with 'Photo Mechanic' maker Camera Bits to develop a workflow in which this signature was preserved and any changes tracked.

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Sony had previously announced business users of the a7 IV would be able to add secure signatures to their images, and has said this capability will now be expanded to other models.

Image manipulation has been a growing concern dating back to the beginnings of digital photography and photo editing software, even more so recently in the wake of AI tools that make manipulating and faking images far easier. Newsrooms and photojournalists are keenly aware that fake and manipulated images can sow confusion, mislead the public, and most concerning, undermine trust in factual journalism.

Sony hasn't historically been the camera of choice for photojournalists, Canon and Nikon having dominated the sector for decades. But following its partnering with the AP in 2020, and its work as a steering committee member for C2PA (Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity), a project that brings together the efforts CAI (Content Authenticity Initiative) and Project Origin to address image provenance and authenticity, it's making inroads.

Leica last month announced a camera that could digitally sign images and append C2PA-compliant metadata to its images, and Nikon has shown a prototype Z9 that does the same, suggesting the there may finally be some sort of industry consensus on the best approach to take.

Sony says it plans to add C2PA authentication via a firmware update for the a9 III, a1, and a7S III next Spring, signalling that the encryption hardware is already present in these models. That timing is likely intentional, as it'll arrive just ahead of the Summer Olympic games and the US Presidential race, both key opportunities for a camera manufacturer courting photojournalists.

Sony Electronics and The Associated Press Complete Testing of Advanced In-Camera Authenticity Technology to Address Growing Concerns Around Fake Imagery

New In-Camera Signature Solution Attaches Digital Certificate to Photos at the Point of Capture to Certify Legitimacy

SAN DIEGO – Nov. 21, 2023 – Today, Sony Electronics announces the completion of a second round of testing for Sony’s in-camera authenticity technology with Associated Press. This in-camera digital signature allows for the creation of a birth certificate for images, validating the origin of the content.

Sony’s authenticity technology provides a machine-based digital signature, removing the opportunity for undetected manipulation at the start. The digital signature is made inside the camera at the moment of capture in the hardware chipset. This security feature is aimed at professionals wanting to safeguard the authenticity of their content and provides an extra layer of security to aid news agencies in their fight against falsified imagery.

“While the rapid evolution of generative AI (Artificial Intelligence) 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 (Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity), 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.”

“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,” said David Ake, AP Director of Photography. “We are proud to be working alongside Sony Electronics to create an authentication solution that can help combat this problem.”

Sony and AP’s most recent field test was completed during October of 2023. In this month-long test, both capture authentication and workflow process were evaluated. To accomplish this, Sony partnered with Camera Bits – the company behind the industry standard workflow tool, Photo Mechanic. Alongside Sony and AP, Camera Bits created technology in Photo Mechanic that preserves the camera’s digital signature all the way 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.”

Sony’s new in-camera signature and C2PA authentication is planned for release in a firmware update in the newly announced Alpha 9 III, Alpha 1, and Alpha 7S III in the Spring of 2024 <1>.

<1> Timing for countries and regions may vary. Firmware support for C2PA formats may initially only be available to news agency partners.