- Google Reverse Image Search
- what is a reverse image search
- why do a reverse image search
- how Tin Eye works
- how Google Reverse Image Search works
- a comparison of the results
- image privacy issues
What is a reverse image search?
A reverse image search uses no words. To do a reverse image search you first introduce an image to a specialised search engine and then it looks for more images like the one you showed to it.
It's usual to be able to either identify the baseline image via a file or a URL.
Why do a reverse image search?
The main reasons for using a reverse image search are:
- to find out where an image came from. Given that the search is very likely to return a number of other sources for the image it may be take a while to identify the original source.
- to find higher resolution images of an image - search results will tell you
- to locate internet sites where an image appears - the results provide a URL address
- to track down places where your images appear on the Internet in order to enforce your rights under copyright law. This may highlight places where:
- your copyright is being infringed
- copies of your images are being sold
- your images have been altered and represented to be those of another person
- to identify the owner of an image so you can ask to use it (which prompts the question of whether somebody would be able to get in touch with you to do this?)
- to identify who has already used a publicly available image so as to avoid its use if used too much already. This is particularly relevant to those using images they do not own on blogs and websites.
This article on Scientific American indicates that the improvements in reverse image search will lead to an increase in reports of copyright infringement which in turn will lead to a change in the copyright laws.
The extent to which emerging laws will continue to protect artist’s livelihoods remains to be seen.Tineye
I guess a number of people are familiar with TinEye which is probably the best known reverse image search engine.
You upload an image or plug in a URL and it will tell you all the other places on the Internet that the image can also be seen. It does not search for words, metadata or watermarks. The way it works is a bit like comparing fingerprints. It's looking for similar characteristics - when it finds enough of them it identifies a match.
You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions.Which is very useful if it happens to be one of your images and shouldn't be appearing anywhere else without your permission!
What's absolutely amazing is the number of images it compares it too
Searched over 2.0345 billion images in 2.450 secondsTineye is very accurate. On the image I tested (provided to me by a gallery) TineEye found both the blogposts I used it on straight away. It also found a number of other sites but only nine in total. All but two were legitimate sites for an image which had been provided to me by a gallery. Some were however using it as a larger size than the gallery allows - which was interesting!
However its accuracy may also understate the number of places the image can be found - see below.
If you want to know more:
- check out this tutorial
- watch the introductory video
- check out the Tineye plugins for Firefox, Chrome and Safari - so you can use it when appropriate straight from your browser.
- check out the Tineye FAQs (very informative and helpful - much better than Google's equivalent)
This was introduced - very quietly - this summer. I made a note of it at the time - but I've not heard a lot about it since then - and there's not a lot on the Internet about it - hence this post!
|Google Reverse Image Search - four ways to find an image|
- drag an image to the search cell (I've tried dragging from one window to another and that works fine)
- upload an image - very straightforward
- copy and paste the URL for an image - I found that doesn't work so well for an image on a blog. It didn't recognise the Blogger URLs for example.
- download the Chrome extension and install it (very fast) - which then allows you to right click an image (on a website or blog) and offers a choice to search Google with that image to identify where else it appears. That works fine and is very fast.
How it works
Google uses computer vision techniques to match your image to other images in the Google Images index and additional image collections. From those matches, we try to generate an accurate "best guess" text description of your image, as well as find other images that have the same content as your search image. Your search results page can show results for that text description as well as related images.
A comparison of the results
My own experience was that Google found a great many more sites for my test image than Tin Eye did.
This experience is confirmed in this article on the SEO Whistleblower blog - Google rolls out reverse image search: RIP TinEye - the results generated by Google were way in excess of those generated by TinEye.
My own feeling is that TinEye generates the most accurate results for the top few examples it returns while Google has strength in depth. It can find many more examples of images just like the one you're searching on - and it can do it fast.
Interestingly in an era when search engine results are becoming increasingly contaminated by those trying to "fix" the results, the image search gives ones of the cleanest and most accurate set of results I've seen for a long time. I'll certainly be using it as my search of preference in relation to art history for example or when I'm trying to track down an artist's website.
There are a number of articles now (such as this one) which indicate that maybe the images that we think are private are not so private after all. This is despite the fact that people should be aware of whether or not their images are being indexed for search purposes - particularly in relation to social media.
The one thing I'd caution people about is to remember that all images are becoming increasingly searchable and that includes all the personal and (we may think) private images of ourselves and our children, families and friends.
Never has it been truer that any image uploaded to a private site may be seen in other places on the Internet in no time at all.
Thus a search on a face will turn up ALL the places that you've used that pic on the Internet. Think about that one the next time somebody takes a photograph of you or you use a photograph on a social media site!
Maybe try doing a reverse image search on a photo of yourself that you've used on the web?