Starling Lab is a nonprofit academic research center that uses cryptography and decentralized protocols to “meet the technical and ethical challenges of establishing trust in our most sensitive digital records.” The lab was founded by Jonathan Dotan and operates between USC and Stanford. The lab's focus is on building a set of technologies, called the Starling Framework, which aims to maintain the integrity of a piece of information as it is captured and stored. The lab is also creating an interface to allow third-party experts to offer context and clarity around an image or video, creating what Dotan calls “a distributed form of consensus.” 

Using and IPFS to fingerprint evidence of war crimes

Recently, Rolling Stone partnered with Starling Lab to archive and authenticate key records of a 1992 war crime in Bosnia. Starling calculated IPFS content IDs to create verifiable hash-based addresses for each of these photos, and uploaded them to to make these photos available using their content IDs.

The Starling Framework of “Capture, Store, Verify” can be applied to any digital media. The reason why IPFS is so powerful is that it provides leverage to all three steps at once: 

  • When media is captured a CID can be calculated for it; since it’s the hash of the media itself, it is a key piece of the metadata of the photo itself
  • Once the media is stored on, it is performantly and persistently available via the IPFS network
  • Because the data is retrievable using a hash of the data itself, other technology like immutable ledgers can be layered on top of the IPFS content ID to ensure that future generations can cryptographically verify the state of the media, taking trust out of the equation

The visual archive can be found here where you can interact with individual photos to see their content IDs (which can be read off the IPFS network quickly using our w3link gateway) and other measures Starling takes to preserve the validity of this media (from using tools like ). You can also read the article to learn more about the history of these photos, and how they’re being used today.

IPFS is quickly expanding from a novel technology to one that is being used to preserve and maintain trust in critical historical data. The same principles can be applied to a ton of other use cases, but the team is proud to deliver reliable and performant content addressed storage over the IPFS network to make it possible for some of humanity’s most critical missions like Starling Lab’s to be fulfilled.