Is your city losing money via Photoshopped images?

The world’s first parking meter, known as Park-O-Meter No. 1, was installed on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1935. Oklahoma City shared a common problem with many of America’s urban areas at the time – a lack of sufficient parking space for the rapidly increasingly number of automobiles crowding into the downtown business district each day.

By the early 1940s, there were more than 140,000 parking meters operating in the United States. Now, there’s millions of metered spaces in cities big and small. Along with the placement of parking meters on city streets is the enforcement of parking regulations. In the old days, you’d take your parking ticket to an in-person hearing and argue your case. In today’s world, the payment and dispute process has moved on line. This offers a cost savings to both parties. It also invites problems when the disputing party introduces a photoshopped (forged) image into the proceeding to get out of paying a fine.

There are many great artists out there. The tools are getting so much better now that even a novice user can change important features with tools like Adobe’s Photoshop. With the stroke of a brush, a red curb disappears. Signs are easily removed and the background filled with Photoshop’s Content Aware technology. How are municipal judges and clerks to know if an image has been forged? How can they trust what they see?

You can fool the eye, but you can’t fool the math.

Meet Axon Detect. Axon Detect is a powerful image authentication and tamper detection tool for use with digital images. Detect provides a suite of tools/tests to determine whether an image is an unaltered original, an original generated by a specific device, or the result of manipulation with photo editing software (which may not be accepted as evidence). Detect puts the power of multiple tests, procedures, and reporting in one package to improve the user’s ability to detect tampered images or determine originality.

The screen shot above shows the result of one of over 20 different tests/tools. In this case, a fire hydrant has been removed from the picture and the side walk redrawn. The forgery was quite realistic (below). But the math – in this case the results of mismatched compression – doesn’t add up. The process shown above, Aligned Double JPEG (below), is explained here.

Consider the cost of this type of forgery to a municipality. It’s estimated that parking ticket revenue averages $20b/year in the US. The city of New York regularly brings in over $500m/year from 10 million tickets issued. Of that 10 million, roughly 3 million are contested – of which 50% are dismissed. As to how many of the 1.5 million dismissed tickets were supported by photographic evidence, we’ll never know. But if just 5% were dismissed because of forged images, the city is losing over $4m/year from this problem. This is just one city. (Consider that introducing false evidence into an official proceeding is a crime, subject to monetary and other penalties. Thus Axon Detect can help to not only prevent loss but also generate revenue from fines/fees.)

Again, folks can do a pretty good job at fooling the eye. But, Axon Detect goes much deeper and leverages the power of image science to authenticate images. Upon loading an image, Axon Detect automatically inspects the file and alerts the user to potential problems. Test tab changes (bold/red) indicate the results of this initial pass that require a closer look.

This use case, authenticating images submitted to traffic court hearings, is just one of the many potential uses of Axon Detect. Every state’s Evidence Code has a provision requiring the authentication of evidence prior to admission. Some states, California for example, have case law that reinforce this mandate.

Rather than take a chance on your evidence being challenged for authenticity, or losing revenue to forgers, consider adding Axon Detect to your tool box.

For more information on this powerful tool, contact us today.

Axon Detect, a vital part of the Axon Forensic Suite, is powered by Amped Software technologies.

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