The Internet has a trust problem. It's just too easy to fake a photo these days.
A startup called Fourandsix hopes to profit by bringing some certainty to the situation with a new service called Izitru that can help verify the authenticity of photos. It won't necessarily help you figure out if a photo shared on Facebook is too good to be true, but it can be used if you're a photographer who just took a potentially viral picture and want people to know it's real.
To use Izitru, a photographer can upload a photo through the Web site or an iPhone app. Izitru then runs a battery of tests that can identify editing or authenticity. It then posts a version of the photo with its trustworthiness rating.
"Our intent behind Izitru is to try to address things right at the source. Can we start at the beginning when somebody is first posting that file and certify it on the way out?" said Chief Executive Kevin Connor. "Anyone who cares enough about having people believe their photo can post it to Izitru and share it through whatever service they want, like Facebook or Twitter."
Although Fourandsix emphasizes the social-media uses, Izitru also could help when people need to send photos to insurance companies, landlords, or others who would want to be sure a photo is legitimate.
Izitru runs a number of tests that scrutinize the file itself for discrepancies in the data and the characteristics of the camera that took the photo; footprints that editing software may have left; some flaws such as inconsistencies in geometry and lighting that can indicate new material copied into a faked photo. It's not the full range of tests the company is capable of, but if enough people flag an Izitru image as suspicious, the company will give it a more thorough manual inspection.
The San Jose, Calif.-based company got its commercial start with a $890 Photoshop plug-in geared for professionals such as law enforcement investigators. The broader push now is at the center of the company's business, said Connor, who along with Chief Technology Officer Hany Farid founded Fourandsix. (Fourandsix is a play on the word "forensics," and Izitru sounds like "is it true.")
Izitru is free to use, but the company hopes to make money by letting other Web sites tap into it through an application programming interface (API), which lets software use the service automatically. That could help social-media services, journalism sites, or insurance companies, Connor said.
Connor and Farid have some cred in the industry: Farid has been studying image forensics for years and is a noted expert in the field, and Connor was vice president of product management for Adobe's digital imaging business, which includes the company's flagship Photoshop software.