How much do you really trust images of that vacation condo for rent, the dating app portrait, the jarring social media video or the used car for sale on the Internet?
San Diego “deep fake/cheap fake” buster Truepic has developed a software platform that aids in determining the veracity of digital photos and video online. This week, the startup pulled in $26 million in a second round of venture capital funding to help fuel its growth — led by M12, the venture capital arm of Microsoft.
Additional investors include Photoshop maker Adobe, Sony Innovation Fund by IVG, Hearst Ventures and Stone Point Capital.
Founded in 2015, Truepic is among a group of companies battling difficult-to-detect, sometimes artificial-intelligence-driven technologies that manipulate digital photos and videos online. The proliferation of bogus images on the Internet has caused people to increasingly question everything from online merchandise to news websites.
“As the tools to generate entirely synthetic photos and videos continue to become widely available, this distrust will continue to grow, ultimately casting doubt around the authenticity of all digital media,” said Jeffrey McGregor, chief executive of Truepic.
While some companies fight image fraud forensically — trying to determine what’s fake online — Truepic’s camera technology takes a different approach. It proves what’s real.
“From the instant that light hits the camera sensor, we can secure the capture operation, so we know that the pixels, date, time and location are authentic,” said Craig Stack, founder and president of Truepic. “Then we seal that information into the file and can verify that what came out of the camera hasn’t been modified.”
What about benign editing to sharpen focus or crop? Truepic uses cryptography, transparency and other techniques that help distinguish between minor edits and significant manipulation, said Stack.
Today, Truepic provides its technology behind the scenes to more than 100 customers. Insurance companies, for example, use it to screen smartphone photos sent in from an accident.
Customers include Accion Opportunity Fund, Equifax, EXL Service, Ford Motor Co., Palomar Holdings, Transunion, United Nations Capital Development Fund, among others. In 2020, Truepic said revenue grew by more than 300 percent.
The 50-employee company worked with Qualcomm to enable its technology as firmware in the San Diego wireless giant’s most recent Snapdragon processors for high-end Android smartphones.
In addition, Truepic is developing an SDK — or software development kit — that would allow mobile developers to include Truepic authentication in their apps. It hopes to have a beta version of the SDK available later this year, said Stack.
Truepic raised about $10 million prior to this recent round. It is a member of the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity, or C2PA, which is creating industrywide standards around digital image authentication. Adobe, Arm, the BBC, Intel, Microsoft and Twitter are among the group’s founding members.
“Truepic’s technology is critical in our ability to enable digital image provenance, and their unique ability to capture secure media makes their platform unparalleled in the market,” said Will Allen, vice president of product for Adobe. “We’re delighted to support their efforts in tackling this important issue and are excited to continue our work together to restore trust online.”