New standards, new camera: metadata to reveal image tampering

Leica M11 marks its images. (OFFICIAL/PROVIDED)

A new camera is on the scene that shows in the metadata when an image has been changed.

German optics company Leica Camera has unveiled a new version of their point-and-shoot M11 camera with firmware compliant with the Content Authenticity Initiative to promote honesty in photojournalism.

This camera has a listed price of $9,195.00 at prominent retailer B&H Photo Video, costing thousands more than industry standards like the Sony Alpha series or the Canon PowerShot or Rebel lines.

When asked about the price, UCO professor of Mass Communications Mark Zimmerman said “Leica has always been that way, it’s always been a rich person’s camera. … It would benefit everyone if (photojournalists) were using these, but that’s just an outrageous price.”

Back in 2019, Adobe, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and the New York Times began an association called the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) with the express goal of “Using Secure Sourcing to Combat Misinformation,” the title of a 2021 article published by the New York Times.

This Leica camera is the first that embeds a digital fingerprint that has been approved by the CAI, which is becoming the standard for news agencies like Reuters, who became members of the CAI in 2022.

This “fingerprint” is really metadata that has been designed by the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA), a venture focused on developing standards for the management and confirmation of authenticity in digital media. C2PA is tied to Project Origin, “a Microsoft- and BBC-led initiative that tackles disinformation in the digital news ecosystem.”

When asked about the effectiveness of combatting image manipulation at the camera level, Zimmerman said “I think it’s a step in the right direction, but image manipulation has been around since the beginning of photography.”

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