This Screen-Scrambling Tool Only Reveals Your Browser with Special Glasses

Hide what you’re looking on your browser with this smart, low tech, Chrome extension.

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Jun 7 2016, 12:00pm

Working in public places has some drawbacks. You have to find an open seat at the tourist-swarmed Starbucks, the WiFi isn't great sometimes, and, worst of all, you gotta look over your shoulder if you want to browse embarrassing sites or highly personal ones.

That's why the paranoiacs among us use a privacy screen, a dark plastic layer on top of your laptop screen that makes it harder for people not directly in front of it to see what you're doing on your computer. But privacy screens aren't perfect. For one, if someone is standing right behind you, they'll be able to see just as well as you do.

There's a more secure solution. Called Decodelia, it's a Chrome extension that uses basic principles of color theory to turn your browser into an indecipherable, intricate pattern only visible with the use of red-tinted glasses.

"There's a lot of talk about privacy related tools and techniques that deal with our information that happens behind our screen, as in what we send out to the internet," Melanie Hoff, the student and artist who created Decodelia, told Motherboard. "And there isn't that much interest or talk around the physicality of our screen—when we're in public spaces people can see that."

That was precisely what inspired Hoff to create Decodelia, as she spends a lot of time working in coffee shops and other places where onlookers can easily glance at her screen.

Despite looking futuristic, Decodelia is a low-tech solution. Essentially, all it needs to work is a pattern akin to that used in envelopes sent by your bank, and red glasses to turn the pattern into visible words and pictures.

"There are more than one audience for your personal screen, you and the people around you."

All Decodelia does is acknowledge that "there are more than one audience for your personal screen, you and the people around you," she told me. "So Decodelia splits the screen in two for those two audiences."

Despite the fact that it was born more as an art project, Hoff hopes that people will start using Decodelia to protect their computers from prying eyes. So far, the extension has only around 20 users, but it's getting good feedback, according to Hoff. When people see her using it in coffee shops they ask about it and like the concept, she said.

"People really like the idea of watching porn at work," Hoff told me.

In fact, the only review on the Chrome store is exactly about that.

"Not only has this application increased my productivity, it has reinvigorated my meager sex drive [by] allowing me watch my favorite nudie videos everywhere I go. Thanks [Hoff], you are a hero," wrote Dhruv Mehrotra.

Whether it's for porn, or to check your bank account or read love letters in public or at work, Decodelia could be best way to do that safely and privately.