JPEG Privacy & Security – a new activity launched by the JPEG committee

Dated: October 18, 2015


The Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) committee has a long tradition in the creation of still image coding standards. JPEG is a joint working group of the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). More specifically, the JPEG committee is Working Group 1 (WG1), Coding of Still Pictures, of JTC 1’s subcommittee 29 (SC29), Coding of Audio, Picture, Multimedia and Hypermedia Information.

JPEG Privacy & Security – a new activity launched by the JPEG committee – aims at developing a standard for realizing secure image information sharing, capable of ensuring privacy, maintaining data integrity, and protecting intellectual property rights. This activity is not only intended to protect private information carried by images – i.e. in the image itself or the associated metadata – but also to provide degrees of trust while sharing image content and metadata based on individually set policies. JPEG Privacy & Security will explore ways to design and implement the necessary functionality extension to current JPEG standards without significantly impacting on coding performance while ensuring simultaneously features such as scalability, interoperability, and forward and backward compatibility.

The JPEG format is today one of the most popular and widely used multimedia standards. Since cameras switched from analog to digital in the early years 2000 and not much later mobile phones integrated communication and image capturing in one device, nowadays several billion of JPEG encoded images are produced per day. Most of us are using JPEG codecs, on a daily basis – often unknowingly – in devices such as mobile phones, computers, tablets, television screens and of course, digital cameras. This vast JPEG ecosystem is expected to continue its exponential growth and to generate additional  value. In the last two decades, a large number of small, medium-sized and large companies have been relying on JPEG technology for their products, and this trend will likely continue.

The proliferation of use of digital images gave also rise to a number of conflicts in terms of non-intended release of privacy information, e.g. metadata associated to a published picture that still contained geographical information that allowed to identify persons that have given anonymous interviews to journalists, or pictures posted on social media only intended for a limited audience that went public. Moreover, images provided by commercial stock image repositories or news agencies have intellectual property rights (IPR) associated with them. Once used the content owners prefer that the IPR conditions continue to be applied, can be consulted and monitored as well.

Currently, these concerns are not well addressed and an inhibiting factor in the further proliferation of digital content distribution. The CEPIC Photographic association, the Plus Coalition, and the IPTC Photo-Metadata groups are all actively engaged on the preservation of the integrity of the metadata, the IPR and the distribution of rights to the private and public sectors.

The JPEG committee intends to interact closely with the actors enabling image privacy and security. This will be facilitated initially by focused workshops that are targeted to understand industry, governmental and user needs in terms of technology and supported functionalities. As a consequence, calls for evidence and/or contributions will be issued to launch new standards or extend existing JPEG standards. The latter consideration is extremely important since JPEG standards have been very successful and wherever feasible the JPEG committee will build upon existing legacy. The first workshop was organized on October 13th, 2015 during the 70th JPEG Meeting in Brussels, Belgium.




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