Words Hidden In Plain Sight

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Kyle Vanhemert shares a new typeface designed to be unreadable by character-recognition software:

Optical character recognition, the same stuff that Google uses to scan the world’s books, can turn real, physical documents into more grist for the data mill with astonishing accuracy. Sang Mun, a designer who has previously worked with the NSA during his time in the Korean military, came up with a clever way to fight back: He made a typeface that’s unparsable to computers, but legible to human eyes.

ZXX, as the typeface is called, comes in four flavors, each exploiting a different weakness in existing OCR tech. The “Camo” style obscures letterforms with camoflage-style blobs. “Noise” splatters them with digital graffiti. “X’ed” just lays a big, crisp X over each letter, and “False” adorns each letter with another tiny, secondary letters. With each–or better yet, a mix of them all – Mun shows how it’s still possible to print a message that can’t be snooped on by some camera peeking over a shoulder.