It’s not time to panic just yet, but there could one day be a fundamental change to the JPEG image format that would have a significant impact on the way we view and use images on the web. The committee behind the format, the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), is now holding discussions on the topic of privacy and security, and considering the idea of bringing digital rights management (DRM) to the popular image type.
There is already another format called JPEG 2000 that exists for professional uses and has DRM options. This is usually found in specific fields, such as for archival purposes, medical imaging, or in the movie industry.
However, the JPEG committee is talking about applying DRM to the standard image format found all across the internet. While the group highlights the privacy aspects, such as encrypting metadata, which contains details about where and when a photo was taken, it could also make it impossible to copy or even open files that are intended for fair use. That means no more images for remixing art, new presentations, or, god forbid, internet memes.
Fortunately for internet users, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is attending the discussions, and has warned against such a blanket use of DRM. Instead, they’ve suggested a more modest approach, one that does take advantage of option encryption of metadata, with one idea being how Facebook photos can be limited to a user’s friends.
What the EFF doesn’t want to see is data that is non-removable, and in turn locked against copying. The organization believes that users should have control over that data, and any security options be based on open standards.