Information and media authentication for a dependable web

By on September 21st, 2015 in Ethics, Human Impacts, Societal Impact

Guest author: Prof. Alessandro Piva (Bio Below)

The wide diffusion of the web and its accessibility through mobile devices has radically changed the way we communicate and the way we collect information about the world we live in. The social impact of such changes is enormous and includes all aspects of our lives, including the shape of social relationships and the process whereby we form our opinions and how we share them with the rest of the world. At the same time, web surfers and citizens are no more passive recipients of services and information. On the contrary, the Internet is more and more populated with contents directly generated by the users, who routinely share information with each other according to a typical peer-to-peer communication paradigm.

The above changes offer a unique opportunity for a radical improvement of the level of democracy of our society, since, at least in principle, every citizen has the ability to produce globally-accessible, first-hand information about any fact or event and to contribute with his/her ideas to general discussions while backing them up with evidence and proofs retrieved from the Internet.

The lack of a centralized control contributes to increase the democratic nature of the Internet, however, at the same time it makes the Internet a very fragile ecosystem, that can be easily spoiled. The ease with which false information can be diffused on the web, and the possibility of manipulating digital contents through easy-to-use and widely diffused content processing tools, casts increasing doubt on the validity of the information gathered “on-line” as an accurate and trustworthy representation of reality.

The need to restore and maintain trust in the web as one of our primary sources of information is evident.

Within the IEEE Signal Processing Society, the Information Forensics and Security (IFS) Technical Committee is involved in the signal processing aspects of this issue, with a particular attention to multimedia data (see the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine special issue on Digital Forensics, Vol 26, Issue 2, March 2009). It is a fact that multimedia data play a very special role in the communication of facts, ideas and opinions: images, videos and sounds are often the preferred means to get access to information, because of their immediacy and supposed objectivity. Even today, it is still common for people to trust what they see, rather than what they read. Multimedia Forensics (MF) deals with the recovery of information that can be directly used to measure the trustworthiness of digital multimedia content. The IFS Technical Committee organized the First Image Forensics Challenge, that took place in 2013, to provide the research community an open data set and protocol to evaluate the latest image forensic techniques.

However, MF tools alone are not the solution to the authentication issue: several key actions must be undertaken involving technological, legal and societal aspects.

What are your opinions about this topic?

Are we irremediably condemned to base our opinions, beliefs and social activity on information whose reliability cannot be determined?

Do you think that the involvement of a critical mass of researchers with different background – technological, legal and social  – could find a solution?

Are you interested in working on this topic?

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Author: Prof. Alessandro Piva

IEEE Signal Processing Society Delegate on the SSIT Board of Governors

Associate Professor @ Department of Information Engineering – University of Florence (Italy)

Alessandro Piva is Associate Professor at the Department of Information Engineering of the University of Florence. He is also head of FORLAB – Forensic Science Laboratory – of the University of Florence. His research interests lie in the areas of Information Forensics and Security, and of Image and Video Processing. In the above research topics he has been co-author of more than 40 papers published in international journals and 100 papers published in international conference proceedings. He is IEEE Senior Member, and he is IEEE Information Forensics and Security Technical Committee Associate Member; he has served on many conference PCs, and as associate editor of the IEEE Trans. on Multimedia, IEEE Trans. on Information Forensics and Security, and of the IEEE Trans. on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology. Other professional details appear at: http://lesc.det.unifi.it/en/node/177