Today we are excited to announce the creation of the Truepic grant program. A program designed to help any organization working to positively impact their community or the world through the use of verified imagery. We believe this is the best way we can do our part to positively impact society, help counter disinformation and help close the trust-gap online. We also want to inform you and explain our decision to remove the free Truepic mobile application from the app stores. Both decisions resulted from many experiences, successes, errors, and use-cases throughout the past two years. Here is our story!
A few years ago we recognized dangerous trends of image manipulation leading to rampant fraud, visual disinformation, and increased use of the “Liar’s Dividend,” — bad faith actors using the possibility of image fabrication as a pretext to undermine reality. These trends led to a dramatic erosion of trust in images and videos online, precisely at a time in which the world was increasing its reliance on them for decision-making — everything ranging from dating, to commerce, to geo-politics. This dynamic was, in our view, a significant threat to both business and society.
Over that time we developed Controlled Capture technology — the world’s first technology to verify the contents of images and videos at the point of capture. The purpose of this technology was to create an immutable source of provenance for digital images to close the trust gap online.
We were proud to release this technology to the world — at no cost — through a free application on iOS and Android. It was ambitious for a small technology company, but we had the conviction that everyone in the world should have the right to capture and disseminate a verified image. Some users took advantage of the opportunity and did amazing things like document dire humanitarian situations in Syria, protests in Sudan, hurricanes in the US, or flooding in India. Some chose to use the free application as a consumer protection tool to detail damages to rental homes and cars, increase oversight on construction projects, or ensure diligence before buying an item online. And others chose to use the technology as a regular camera and snap some fun pics, which was fine too. Within a year or so of the application’s release, Truepic’s Controlled Capture technology was used in over 100 countries and in countless scenarios. It was encouraging to see how verified images could make a difference.
Despite such widespread usage and success, we recently made the decision to retire the free mobile application of Truepic’s technology, to be replaced at a later date. We made this difficult decision because of notable challenges we faced. Firstly, it is costly for an early-stage technology company to develop and constantly maintain a free application used throughout the world. While we never intended to profit from the application (we did not aggregate or sell data), we did underestimate the cost to maintain, upgrade, and support its wide-spread use. Secondly, changing consumer behavior is very difficult and we ultimately did not see enough organic growth to warrant the continued support costs of the application at this time. Part of this can be attributed to the friction of downloading a separate camera application instead of leveraging the native camera, especially in scenarios that require very fast action. Finally, above all, consumer education was critical to successfully deploying this technology to the world. Education included the availability and use of the technology, understanding the verified contents of an image, how to mitigate risk and increase anonymity in high-threat environments and, of course, how to explain image data integrity vs. unilateral trust. For example, an image with verified data (time, date, location and pixels) is not the same as an image with verified content (the thing being depicted is 100% truthful) — something that may be evident to some but not to others. There is no technology that can bridge this gap.
Interestingly, Truepic has had more significant adoption of its enterprise version of Controlled Capture — Truepic Vision. Truepic Vision is an end-to-end platform allowing any organization to request, solicit, or crowdsource verified images and videos through a smart link. This product demonstrated early success, which spurred additional investment and features built into the product. We noticed that even our social impact partners had the same needs and often made better decisions based on verified content collected through Truepic Vision. Our partner’s decisions include, deploying development funds to a distant location, evaluating the compliance of / progress of a program, collecting evidence or provenance, or even a media company choosing to air User Generated Content in the public domain.
Verified images helped increase the confidence of decision-makers in each scenario by closing the trust gap. This is something we are choosing to lean into because we see it as the most feasible way to leverage verified imagery to positively impact society. As a result, Truepic will continue its social impact work and start our very first grant program to streamline the deployment of Truepic Vision at little or even no cost to any organization working to positively impact society.
We still have the conviction that individuals should have the ability to freely capture and disseminate verified images. This is why we are working diligently to adapt Controlled Capture technology so that it can be embedded directly in smartphone hardware. This way, the technology can scale rapidly to empower hundreds of millions of people in short order.
While that work continues, we plan to identify ways to build off of the success of Truepic Vision and develop methods it can be used by individuals and organizations alike. We see a day when any individual or organization will be able to solicit, capture, disseminate, and store verified images to increase confidence in digital images and videos, make better decisions and mitigate the impact of fraud and disinformation online.