Enter the maze

Hide and see

woman in gallery

Encryption is about hiding information in plain sight. A problem with traditional text codes, though, is that it’s easy to tell they contain information. If you found a note written in seemingly random letters, you would realise that it’s probably a coded message, and set about trying to crack it. So a powerful way to keep a message secret is to disguise the fact that there is any message at all. That’s the idea behind Hide & See, a system designed by Jaakko Tuomivaara for hiding information right on your walls where everyone can see. In his system, information from your phone or an Internet feed gets secretly displayed as changes to the pictures on display in your house.

A picture on your wall of a fair-skinned, freckled woman slowly adds more freckles as your missed phone calls pile up. In a photo on your mantelpiece, a man’s shoulder bag changes colour as a friend moves between locations in the real world. In a third picture, some cracks in dried mud are actually a graph of stock market prices. Having this information right in front of you means you could glance at it any time, but no one else would realise it’s even there. To them you would just have good taste in photography.

In fact, Hide & See is such an elegant solution to hiding information that it has been displayed alongside art. It was recently on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hopefully soon it will make the leap to real life, and we can decorate our rooms with beautiful photos and useful secrets.