eWitness, John Jay Professor Fight Fake Photos and Video

eWitness, John Jay Professor Fight Fake Photos and Video

eWitness, John Jay Professor Fight Fake Photos and Video

From photoshopped, viral photos to deep fake videos, we’ve all seen how easy it is to manipulate people into thinking something is real.

Shweta Jain, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice is fighting back against these phony images to make sure “Seeing can Still be Believing.” That’s the promise for eWitness, a company that uses blockchain technology to guarantee the authenticity of photos and videos.

Ewitness logo

Jain has developed an app, now available on the Google store, and beginning this month, is piloting eWitness with two major news organizations.

Now, when reporters send back provocative images from war zones, they will be hashed with unique, electronic, identifying information, supported by a permissioned blockchain that immediately verifies the photos as real.

While this first test for eWitness is in journalism, Jain thinks its most popular use can be in law enforcement, used to verify everything from crime scene photos taken by an officer’s phone, to bodycam footage, to surveillance video.

“Anywhere there are pictures involved, user generated content can be manipulated,” said Jain, who has a background in computer networks and security.

She sees eWitness as either a standalone app or something that can be incorporated into other programs, like for the insurance industry or even online dating.

“It’s very common for people to misrepresent themselves on dating apps in order to look younger or different. This would tell you that a person’s profile photo was the original un-doctored image,” said Jain.

Begun in 2016 with Professor Nasir Memon from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, eWitness made a huge leap forward thanks to a $250,000 grant in 2017 from the National Science Foundation.

The eWitness team Kumar Ramansenthil, Shweta Jain, and Priyanka Samanta.
The eWitness team Kumar Ramansenthil, Shweta Jain, and Priyanka Samanta.

The eWitness team also includes Priyanka Samanta ‘22, a 3rd year Doctoral Student at CUNY Graduate Center and Kumar Ramansenthil, a John Jay adjunct professor and the head of Business Development and Management for the project. Ramansenthil is an IIT and Cornell Alumnus with 10 years of work experience in Corporate Finance and Business at American Express and JP Morgan.

The eWitness team next participated in the CUNY iCorps Short Course, which helps researchers become entrepreneurs, and was accepted into the 2019 Combine Cohort at NYC Media Lab. The Combine is a 10-week startup accelerator for projects run by entrepreneurial, university professors.

The program includes mentorships and important networking support. The goal of the accelerator is for the founders to narrow the market for their product, get feedback, and test the viability with as many as 100 outside groups or individuals. Jain says these meetings were crucial in refining eWitness but it wasn’t easy.

“It’s a lot of hard work and takes a lot of commitment,” said Jain. “It takes a toll on your personal life – but it’s rewarding because we are doing something that is needed and can be quite impactful.”

The pilot program is a direct result of the outside meetings and Jain says this is now just the beginning. After delivering her talk at the Combine Demo Day, she was approached by multiple investors who are interested in seeing eWitness become a reality.

Watch Shweta Jain’s Combine Demo Day Presentation

Jain says she’ll get there. In less than two years, she predicts eWitness will be well on its way to becoming the industry standard for authenticating online still and video images.