Even digital cameras have fingerprints

Title of the research project

ToothPic, a large-scale camera identification system based on compressed fingerprints

Scientific area  

Image processing, search and retrieval

Project coordinator

Enrico Magli


ToothPic exploits the fact that each optical sensor of digital cameras or smartphones leaves a unique fingerprint in all pictures. The project will develop a search engine taking as input a camera fingerprint or a photo and returning a list of photos acquired by the same camera.

Description of the research project 

The continuously growing amount of photos posted and distributed over the Internet poses several important ethical and economic issues; we are dealing with a global amount of about 250 billion images growing  day by day. The ToothPic project develops a technology that will help address them. It will show how the unique fingerprint of cameras is usable to efficiently manage the huge amount of pictures available on the web. Imperfections of the optical sensor fabrication process introduce a noise signal identifying the specific sensor having generated it, which changes also between two specimen of the same model. ToothPic aims at validating a breakthrough camera identification technology developed during the ERC starting grant “CRISP”. This technology is based on a novel compressed fingerprint format and search algorithms, and outperforms state-of-the art techniques by orders of magnitude in terms of storage requirements and identification speed. As a consequence, it enables the deployment of camera-identification services on an unprecedented scale, paving the way for application to popular image sharing and social media sites. A set of demo applications, including a search engine, taking as input a camera fingerprint or a photo and returning a list of photos acquired by the same camera, will also be implemented.

Impact on society 

Every day more that 350 million new images are posted by a billion of Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr or Pinterest users. The technology developed by ToothPic will allow to check non-authorized distribution of images posted on the web and identify who is illegally using them. This could have an extremely positive impact on the use of visual social medias, as the public will perceive them as safer.

Short CV of project coordinator 

Enrico Magli received the degree in Electronics Engineering and the Ph.D. degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering, both at Politecnico di Torino. He holds an Associate Professor position in the Dept. of Electronics of the same University.

His research activities are in the field of compressed sensing, error resilient image and video coding, compression of remote sensing images, distributed source coding, and image/video security. He has coauthored over 130 scientific papers in international journals and conferences, including more than 50 journal papers, and has organized several journal special issues and conference special sessions.

    ToothPic project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme  grant agreement No 665421

  • Budget: 149.526
  • Start date: 1/09/2015
  • End date: 01/03/2017