Can you hide data in an NFT?

It’s easy to see the NFT industry as a quirky and controversial extension of the art industry. Artists can make millions of dollars from NFT sales, but can NFTs be used for something more elusive? More specifically, can you use NFTs to hide data, or is it just impossible?


What data is stored in NFTs?

NFTs are not just digital photos or videos. Rather, they are tokens proving ownership of a digital artwork. A particular NFT therefore does not contain the image or video file of the purchased artwork. Rather, NFTs are more like typical cryptocurrencies (although they are non-functioning).

Within a particular NFT you will find metadata, which essentially provides information about other data. Examples of NFT metadata include the name, description and transaction history of the NFT. The NFT metadata will likely often refer to the location of the image, video, or other valuable items in question. For example, a particular NFT might contain the URL or IFPS hash that leads to the artwork’s location.

But can you also store other types of data in an NFT? Is it even possible to secretly hide data in these digital assets?

Can you hide data in an NFT?

To answer this question, we need to examine steganography. This is the process of hiding one file inside another. Steganography has been around for thousands of years, long before the NFT industry ever existed.

Early examples of steganography date back to ancient Greece, but the digital age gave this technique a new medium through which it can work. Even cyber criminals can use steganography to hide malicious files.

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Because digital images are made up of thousands of tiny pixels, each containing about eight bits (or one byte), they can be very useful for hiding extra data. Digital artworks can thus be used to hide data. In this sense, various steganographic techniques can be used to secretly store data within a particular image file.

The most common steganography method is known as Least Significant Bit (LSB) steganography. As the name suggests, this technique involves hiding data in the least important bits in an image file. But don’t get too deep into the different types of steganography now, because we have one more important question to answer: where do NFTs come in?

Remember that NFTs are tokens, not images. It is easy to merge the tokens themselves with the digital artworks they relate to, but these are two very different things. Therefore, you cannot apply steganography to a literal NFT. However, within certain types of NFT, data may be somewhat hidden.

This is where secret NFTs come into play.

What are Secret NFTs?

Secret NFTs are developed by a company known as Secret. Secret NFTs can be developed on the secret network, unlike many NFTs built on the Ethereum blockchain.

The privacy levels of these NFTs can be customized by the user and both public and private metadata can be stored in them. So when a secret NFT is created, the developer has the option to add private metadata if desired.

This private metadata is not essential, but can provide benefits to the NFT owner. For example, a developer may hide a promotional link, video file, or additional images for the ultimate owner to enjoy. Thus, in the specific case of secret NFTs, data can be hidden.

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But secret NFTs aren’t just useful for digital art. This kind of NFT can also be used in gaming, paywalls and even event ticketing. While this is a fairly new technology, it looks promising for the future.

NFTs can hide data in certain scenarios

It’s safe to say that not all NFTs can hide data. While NFT artworks can certainly be used to hide files via steganography, NFTs themselves must be designed in a specific way to allow for the storage of private metadata. But this is possible and may be seen more in the tech industry in the coming years.

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