Here's how not to lose sight of your company’s images on the Internet

Technologie de suivi des images

June 15, 2020

Here's how not to lose sight of your company’s images on the Internet

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The visual content of your business has a life after its publication. The question is, what will happen to your photos or videos once they are published, emailed or downloaded ? Whether it is to calculate your marketing ROI, guard your brand's reputation, or protect your IP or copyright, it would be better for you to know.

Your company may already have a digital assets management system (DAM) or a CMS - a shared library acting as your central point of management and digital rights. But what if you could extend this management beyond your servers? How would you maintain the link with your content in order to still be able to monitor its “life outside”?

This article will give an overview of the technologies required to monitor visual content on the web and some technical challenges for each. It also explains how our Imatag system gets around those challenges.

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How to build an efficient monitoring solution in four steps :

  • Step 1 : Collect and feed an image search database (parsing, crawling)
  • Step 2 : Process images and videos using visual recognition
  • Step 3 : Identify and certify matches using watermark detection
  • Step 4 : Monitor your assets on the internet like a radar (reports and dataviz)

Step 1 : Collect and feed an image search database (parsing, crawling)

Your images are on the web like a needle in a haystack and finding them requires special technical resources. This phase of image search starts with a crucial and decisive step for the success of asset monitoring: web-crawling, i.e. search the web and collect as many images as possible. While this sounds straightforward, it's actually more complex than it seems.

First, web-crawling robots, though benign, can be blocked by various sites – like those that defend against cyber-attacks or others which require permission to access (eg, paywalls, platforms, or social networks). Once images are collected, the next challenge is of storing and indexing them inside a database.

Then, depending on your business activities, your image content may even be contained inside of printed media (eg, PDF books, magazines, catalogs, etc.) or even videos. In this case the web crawler must also be able to process these files to extract their visual contents..

Finally, you may also need to point these web-crawling robots at sites with particular importance, identified beforehand (eg, sites of your distributors, your competitors, your customers, etc.).

IMATAG-crawler-300x300

Imatag's efficiency in web-crawling relies on its ability to accumulate sources of web images (from partners and its own crawlers) and to process images within PDFs containing images. We are also experts in metadata (IPTC, EXIF, XMP) and use the results of our “search by credit” engine to parse sites where your credit is most used. Also specific partnerships can be set up to access to certain images despite the presence of paywalls or bot-blockers.

Learn more about the difference between parsing and crawling.

Step 2 : Process images and videos using visual recognition

Once a web-crawler has collected images, then you will have to index and store them in a database (we will not detail this part). Once this is complete, then you have two options to process the images : either by reading their metadata or compare them visually.

Reading metadata is the simpler of the two, because any basic system can read a metadata string and search for your unique
data. However, our study shows that 97% of the images on the web are stripped of their metadata!

Since that's the case, let's explore the second option : visually recognize your images. Basic visual recognition can be useful but often it may not be sufficient. This is because the similarity between some images can be misleading or completely useless after destructive modifications like cropping, color changes, flipped images, etc ...

So how can we get around these two sub-optimal methods for finding your images ? The trick is to use Digital Watermarking, which we'll talk about next.

Step 3 : Identify and certify matches using watermark detection

Applying a digital watermark to all your visual assets will help find your images with much better results than simple visual recognition. More than that, it also allows you to obtain distinct information from multiple copies of a single image! This way you can easily distinguish seemingly identical copies (eg, non - exclusive photos, transactional watermarks, leak-tracing, etc.).

An example of a transactional watermark (or traitor tracing) would be to use the watermark to store the ID of the user who downloaded a copy from your DAM. Once decoded from the watermark, this information would be extremely useful to know the provenance of any images which were leaked prematurely.

IMATAG-watermark-300x300

To overcome the limitations of visual recognition, Imatag uses our patented digital watermarking technology. It is a way to imperceptibly insert any information into the pixels of an image. In this way, the watermark acts like an invisible QR Code hidden within the image itself. And, like a QR Code, it can contain information such as the unique identifier of the person who downloaded the image.

Once the invisible watermark is detected by our recognition algorithm, the extracted data can be used to certify the origin of an image, thus the link between the image and the original metadata is maintained.

This method is much more robust than an easily-erasable, visible watermark and works even after destructive image modifications like cropping, color updates, or even changing image compression.

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Step 4 : Monitor your assets on the internet like a radar (reports and dataviz)

You can imagine that simply getting a long list of your images from the web would be unwieldy at best. Reporting tools should be easy to navigate and display warnings about any issues, eg which images are not compliant, authorised, etc.

Also, custom alerts are a practical tool to avoid a daily login because they will let you know when there are issues which need addressed.

Lastly, the ability to easily access information about the sites on which your images were found will simplify your data analysis such as knowing your audience, image monetization or categories, etc.

IMATAG-dashboard-300x300

The reports from our web service give you a statistical view of the sites where your images are used.

Our system will also notify you each time an image is detected to help you quickly understand whether its use is authorized or compliant.

Additional information such as the world rank of these sites (audience indicators) helps you assess the exposure of your content and make the right decisions.

Now, who is using your visual content ?

IMATAG Monitor has been developed to address the four areas listed above. You can use it today ! - either online via our web service or integrated directly into your system using our API.

Learn more about Imatag :

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