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In this paper we introduce and develop a framework for the data-hiding technologies that aim at resolving emerging problems of modern public networks. First, we emphasize the main open issues in public network security, quality of services control and secure communications. Secondly, we formulate digital data hiding as communications with side information and advocate an appropriate information-theoretic framework for the analysis of different data hiding methods in various applications. In particular, Gel'fand-Pinsker channel coding with side information at the encoder and Wyner-Ziv source coding with side information at the decoder are used for this purpose. Finally, we demonstrate the possible extensions of this theory for watermark-assisted multimedia processing and indicate its perspectives for distributed networks.