What is "Perceptual Encryption", and where do we use it?

I came across it whilst reading a paper on ECC in a multimedia context, from which I quote:

Hence, to achieve perceptual encryption, the higher-order biplanes were selected to be encrypted.

In addition to a formal definition, I would appreciate some examples of using it.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you post a link to the paper? $\endgroup$
    – mikeazo
    May 5, 2014 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ "biplanes" should be "bitplanes", which would be equivilent to encrypting 6 bits of a 10-bit quantized DCT block, resulting in poor image quality without the other 6 bits. This is called "Scalable SNR Decoding" and is generally used for bandwidth constrained clients without needing to re-encode the content. $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2014 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


Perceptual encryption is a term used to describe various applications of encryption methods intended for audio, speech, image and video data.

The basic idea is that one performs encryption for multimedia content in a way that only a certain amount of "perceptual information" is touched by the encryption. It may be considered as intentionally degrading the quality of the multimedia content by means of encryption, whereas the part of the data that remains untouched can be processed by the respective decoder without requiring access to the encryption key. However, the full "perceptual information", i.e., the full quality multimedia data, can only be recovered when given access to the the encryption key.

For instance, one may use perceptual encryption to downgrade the quality for a free online preview of some movie and only if one pays for the content one obtains access to the encryption key and thus to the full quality content.

There are various freely available articles describing different techniques for this type of encryption (just do a Google or Google Scholar search) and also some parts of books (you can find via Google Books), e.g.:

and just search for "perceptual encryption". I am not sure if there is something like a single definition because there are various techniques for perceptual encryption, but you should find classifications in the linked books.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.