I found myself packing up for the day at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit last week, when I was approached by the co-founder and CEO of Idee - the makers of TinEye, Leila Boujnane. Leila wanted to chat about TinEye's capabilities, as I'd just finished talking about the problems of orphan works, and the image search technologies that were on the horizon, and I mentioned TinEye, among others, during my talk. I'd not tried TinEye, but I had heard of remarkable results by trusted colleagues of mine trying it out. So, it was serendipitous that I was now chatting with Leila.
I wanted very much to try it - it being in beta right now, I just hadn't gotten around to it. Though, just yesterday, on a whim, I clicked the "request an invite" link. A few hours later, I got accepted, and was curious to see the results. Some I expected, others I'm upset about.
First, the expected. I looked for the first image that I had on my desktop that had seen the light of day outside of my office. And, as I've done the past two years at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit, I was a speaker. Part of being a speaker means providing a headshot of myself, and that image was on my desktop. So, it was an easy image to choose.
All I had to do was click the "Upload Image" button, select the file, and TinEye immediately processed the image into it's digital fingerprint.
The results were as I expected. Of the over 701 million images (amongst billions and billions of images on the internet), two authorized versions of my headshot appeared - one when I did blogging for Amazon, and one for my recent talk at WPPI in Las Vegas. Both results were fine by me. Whew, I thought.
Then I got upset.
I thought next to my headshot, what other image might I have made that could be in circulation and was sitting on my desktop. The image that came to mind - and the first one I thought of, was an image of a Harrier jump jet (it can be seen here on the second page, lower left thumbnail corner). A search for that image yielded no results, which wasn't what upset me - it was what happened next. The second image I thought of was an image I had made for a defense contractor for a helicopter that was to be very high profile.
I uploaded my image, and TinEye, in under a tenth-of-a-second, returned my image as a part of a montage on a foreign government's website for their military. I was immediately and simultaneously blown away by TinEye's capabilities - applied in my real-world application, and angry because this was an infringement of my work. Grrrrr.
Next, I penned a brief, and friendly e-mail to my client asking them how this might have happened, and providing them with the URL. I am awaiting their response still.
Oh, and the best part? TinEye is free. They've got a gallery of really cool examples they've found here, but this gallery shows just how many derivations of an image can still be found using TinEye, and TinEye is constantly crawling the web - adding the fingerprints of images to their database at a dizzying rate of 3,000,000 images (give or take a few hundred thousand!) a day.
All around impressive! TinEye is your very own private investigator - scouring the internet for the visual pirates of the high seas and giving you the information to take responsive action.
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