Graphics to keep your messages secret

By converting text to an image, internet users have a new service that can keep private data secret. (AAP)

By converting text to an image, internet users have a new service which can keep private data secret.

An ingenious new service from Germany enables you to keep addresses and other semi-private data hidden in plain sight online by converting the text to an image.

Anyone who has done much online shopping or banking will have, at some point, encountered a captcha (capture) graphic.

These distorted and curvy depictions of numbers and letters routinely pop up during security screenings. To access secure spaces, computer users are required to recognize the figures and then type them in.

The idea is that a computer hijacked by an automated virus would be unable to recognize the characters and would, thus, get no further.

The same security idea can be put to work to help private users protect their own messages. The group Digitalcourage, which campaigns for information freedom and data security, has already made a captcha generator available at

Users are asked to type in the text they want encoded. It only takes one click to turn that into a captcha which can be downloaded.

A person could use the service to send a message to a Facebook contact, but in a format that would not let it be read by Facebook's data crawlers.

Others might want to add an additional layer of protection to a website's contact data or company information page, preventing webcrawlers or bot programs from gathering the data and misusing it for spam.

The generator is clearly designed to keep internet services from digitizing user data. Digitalcourage says it does not save the data in a readable format and clears its server of every graphic within 10 minutes of creation.

If you don't even trust Digitalcourage, you could simply write the words longhand on paper, photograph the paper and send the image.

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