Fake Photo Blocker: Truepic Introduces App to Verify Online Images

Craig T. Stack said the idea for Truepic came to him from a multitude of online sources.

There’s the matchmaking service founded by his wife Greta, who insists on meeting personally with clients because the photos submitted with some online applications just don’t match—or the image seems decades out of date. There are tales about fake photos of Super Bowl tickets sold on Craigslist and of misrepresented homes rented on Airbnb.

There’s the proliferation of phony photos that went viral during last year’s presidential campaign: the doctored photo of Republican candidate Donald Trump with his parents in Ku Klux Klan outfits; the purported image of Democratic Party tour buses delivering protestors to a Trump campaign rally; the picture of Australian actress Samara Weaving from the series “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” drenched in makeup blood, that she posted to her own Instagram account. As Gizmodo reported, an alt right website misrepresented Weaving’s photo with the caption, “Here’s what happened to a female Trump supporter when she met ‘peaceful’ and ‘tolerant’ liberals.”

With Photoshop and so many other photo and video editing apps available, Stack said he asked himself, “How can you possibly trust anything you see on the Internet, where it is so easy to fake photos?” His answer is Truepic.

Truepic founder Craig Stack

San Diego-based Truepic, the startup Stack founded last year, has developed a mobile app and related Web-based technology that provides a way to authenticate digital images for businesses and consumers.

In a statement accompanying its debut last week, Truepic says photos taken with its smartphone app “cannot be altered, filtered or modified in any way, enabling businesses to verify uploaded photos as accurate with 100 percent confidence, and consumers to share credibly unfiltered pictures anywhere on the Web.”

As part of its introduction, Truepic said it has raised $1.75 million in seed funding from a group of individual investors that includes Jeff Parker, the FirstCall co-founder and former CEO of Thomson Financial; Andrew “Flip” Filipowski, founder of SilkRoad Equity and the enterprise software company Platinum Technology (acquired in 1999 by Computer Associates); and William Sahlman, a Harvard Business School emeritus professor and venture investor.

Truepic CEO Jeff McGregor, a New York Web entrepreneur who joined the startup last fall, said about 80 percent of all photos these days are taken with a mobile phone. As McGregor explained it, every photo that’s taken using the Truepic app is immediately sent to a Truepic server, where image metadata is collected, a six-digit code is assigned, and a copy of the image is saved. Users can export the verified and “watermarked” version of the image to wherever they want, including dating sites, online classified ads, and online home rental listings. The six-digit code is visible on the image with a URL, so viewers can double-check what they’re seeing with the verified image on the Truepic server.

People may change the date and time settings on their smartphones, Stack said, “but I can guarantee that the server data is accurate.”  As a result, Truepic says its blockchain technology can verify the authenticity of Truepic images shared on any website.

Truepic image used with permission

Truepic is available for consumers using iOS and Android on the iTunes App Store and Google Play, McGregor said. Insurance companies and other businesses, however, may want to restrict access to their photos exclusively for in-house users. So Truepic makes money by providing its verification services to business on a subscription basis. The company also makes its software development kit available for use in other systems, McGregor said.

Stack, a co-founder and managing director of Life Credit Co. (and unrelated to ProKarma CFO Craig Stack), said Truepic would be especially useful in the insurance industry, where fraud involving property and casualty claims amounts to roughly $34 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

By using Truepic, Stack said insurance carriers can authenticate photos submitted with insurance claims; home rental images can be verified as accurate and current; classified photos can be confirmed credible; and online dating services can reassure clients that what they see is what they’ll get.

Truepic said the seed funding will help the company accelerate its sales and continue investing in its proprietary certification technologies for businesses and consumers.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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