“The Internet is riddled with watchful eyes,” begins the description on the homepage of Cryptstagram, and the creators of the site intend to do something about it. Put together by folks at The Barbarian Group, Cryptstagram is an online tool that lets you use uploaded images to send secret, encrypted messages.
The idea behind Cryptstagram came up after the NSA surveillance news broke. Technology director at The Barbarian Group, Aimee Kvasir, and her team wanted to find a creative way to protect people’s privacy, without trying to get any sort of ‘lesson’ across.
“We were more interested in combining the themes of glitch art, government surveillance, and personal cryptography than we were with dictating a message or lesson,” Ben Turner, a developer on the project, tells Wired. “The best we felt we could do was provide a tool for people to play with those themes all in one place, to contribute their own opinions and feelings into a common product: a glitched-out image with hidden messages within.”
What came out the other end is a website that works much like Instagram does. You still have to upload a photo and choose a filter. Where it differs is on the types of filters — Cryptstagram lets you choose from several glitch art options including “NSA,” “White Sound,” “Shifty” or custom filters you can make yourself — and the final step. That step is adding a secret message.
You don’t have to embed a message, but if you do, it too will be secured with a password so that only the recipient will be able to open the file. The final image/message combo can only be decrypted and made normal again by decrypting it on the Cryptstagram website using the password.
It seems they could have encrypted the images any way they wanted, even blacked them out, but the glitched-out feel was important to the whole concept for Cryptstagram. “From purely aesthetic point of view, glitch art has an inherently subversive feel which felt in line with our intent to subvert existing encryption paradigms,” explains Senior Art Director Kevin Chan.
To learn more or try out the secretive service for yourself, head over to the Cryptstagram website by clicking here.