Imatag inserts invisible watermarks to track images around the web

Meet Imatag, a French startup that has been working on a watermarking product. Watermarking is nothing new, but the company has found a way to mark images even if they are resized, cropped, edited or compressed.

Many photographers and brands watermark their photos so that you can see who’s the original source when the photo gets re-uploaded around the web and on social networks. But it’s not perfect. If you put a tiny logo in a corner, you can just crop the photo to leave the logo out of the photo.

Stock photo databases, such as Getty and Shutterstock, put a gigantic logo in the middle of the photo so that’s it’s literally unusable if you don’t have the right licensing rights.

Imatag takes a different approach. When you mark a photo, individual pixels are modified all around the image so that you can’t notice it when you compare it with the original shot. When you modify a photo, some pixels will be modified, but not all. This way, you can always find the watermark again.

“It’s not a good idea to modify colors directly. You have to start with grayscale analysis and that’s what we do,” co-founder and CEO Mathieu Desoubeaux. “We apply psychovisual masks to make sure that you can’t see it with human eyes.”

Imatag assigns a signature with each photo that it processes. By following the same process, you can just compare the signatures of multiple shots to see if they come from the similar source.

The startup goes one step further and offers a service for multiple use cases. With Imatag Monitor, the company monitors your images on the web to see where they appear.

Some clients use it to fight back against illegal use, such as photo agencies. But brands also use it to see if product shots appear on social networks for instance. They don’t want to refrain people from sharing those photos, but they want to monitor the response to a new product.

Imatag also works with smartphone manufacturers or car makers so that they can identify leaks before an official announcement. When you send photos of a new smartphone to various retailers, you can tag them with Imatag. This way, you can trace back the source of a leak in case your product shots start leaking.

Imatag lets you integrate their watermarking technology in your image flow if you’re dealing with a high volume of photos. Companies who don’t work with a lot of images can just use Imatag’s website directly.

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