Over the past few years, there have been multiple efforts by governments to spy on users of digital communications and to force technology companies to provide access to the electronic communications of suspected criminals. While some messaging systems now offer end-to-end encryption that prevents the providers of such services from decrypting messages, metadata–including who communicated with whom and when and where–is still available to governments.

So, is there a way to truly hide communications?

One way is to literally hide information in plain sight using what is known as steganography.

Steganography refers to the practice of hiding secret information within other data in such a way that only the sender and intended recipient know that the concealed material even exists. To read data protected with steganography, a government employee (or hacker) would have to first find it–which can be exceedingly difficult. Furthermore, unlike encrypted data that may arouse the curiosity of hackers and government agencies, data hidden using steganography looks innocent even when both hidden and encrypted.

Online, steganography can be easily achieved using pictures; photos are commonly shared online by billions of people and, therefore, do not appear suspicious when shared.