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Algorem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:55 AM
Original message
Secret Service can track what you print /

Wednesday October 19, 2005 9:27 AM EST - By: Ritwik Sinha
Source: EFF

Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that keeps tabs on the electronic industry and intrusion into public privacy, has claimed that they have identified the tracking code used by Xerox in their color laser printers. The distinguishing tracking codes also appear in the color laser printers manufactured by Canon, Epson, HP, and Lexmark.

These tracking codes are in the form of miniscule yellow dots that are not visible to the naked eye. Apparently there are no laws governing the printer manufacturer to equip printers with the tracking codes -- which encode the printer's serial number and time and date information. The practice is being followed by printer manufacturers as a voluntary service to Secret Service to fight the rising crime of counterfeiting.

For example, in a printout from a Xerox DocuColor printer, the tracking dots are printed in a rectangular grid of 15 by 8 on every page. These tracking dots can be seen with the help of a Blue light and a magnifying glass. EEF has made available a decoding program of the Xerox code program.

Certainly this may help the Secret service and police to fight counterfeiting but the big challenge posed by this issue is that in the long run, this may eat into Americans' right to remain anonymous by making it more difficult to print out political or religious pamphlets anonymously.

Sleuths Crack Tracking Code Discovered in Color Printers

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005; Page D01

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn't. The pages coming out of your color printer may contain hidden information that could be used to track you down if you ever cross the U.S. government.

Last year, an article in PC World magazine pointed out that printouts from many color laser printers contained yellow dots scattered across the page, viewable only with a special kind of flashlight. The article quoted a senior researcher at Xerox Corp. as saying the dots contain information useful to law-enforcement authorities, a secret digital "license tag" for tracking down criminals.

The content of the coded information was supposed to be a secret, available only to agencies looking for counterfeiters who use color printers.

Now, the secret is out...

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uppityperson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:56 AM
Response to Original message
1. what'll this do to people making butt prints?
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Algorem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:09 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. then they apprehend you and tattoo the yellow dots onto your ass
Edited on Wed Oct-19-05 11:29 AM by Algorem
then it's off to Gitmo for you or maybe Ass-mo if there is one if you don't "accidentally" fall out of the chopper into the ocean on the way there
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uppityperson Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-05 10:38 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. Think of the office workers lined up to be scanned
to see whose print it is.
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thinkingwoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 10:57 AM
Response to Original message
2. I sincerely hope
that nobody is shocked by this.

Lesson learned? If you want to print something anonymously, that's virtually impossible now. You're only hope is to take it to Kinko's and pay cash, but while you're there, be sure to smile at the security camera.
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-19-05 11:13 AM
Response to Original message
4. Before the hysteria starts
Edited on Wed Oct-19-05 11:15 AM by Atman
First of all, I'm not defending the practice. Seems pretty reprehensible to me, at least on the surface. However, this seems to be an anti-counterfieting measure, and if the yellow dots are invisible, I suppose there is no great harm. If you're a seditionist, you're likely not using expensive Xerox color lasers to create your fliers. They're simply no cost-effective. A standard old printing press or cheap $300 b&w laser printer is probably a better solution for you.

Which brings me to the all-important word, LASER printer. This is important, because few of us, if any, have color laser printers. Their output is usually far more color-fast and durable than an average consumer ink jet. And virtually all color printers sold to consumers are INK JETS, not lasers. If one was to attempt to counterfeit documents, a laser printer would be the medium of choice, not an ink jet. Color laser printers are still prohibitively expensive to operate for the average user. So don't panic and stop printing photos for grandma...the secret service still won't be able to "track" those.

Which leads to the final thought..."tracking." This brings up ominous visions of bells and whistles going off somewhere in Langley when you print a document on your encoded laser. Remember, you have to be a suspect in something first. This "tracking" device only gives investigators something to go on AFTER THE FACT. If, for instance, you've tried to counterfeit a passport, and that passport falls into the hands of someone who is busted, the feds can trace the printing back to a specific printer. But that's about the extent of it.

Does in bode ill for privacy in general? Sure. But lots of other things BushCo is doing to erode our privacy rights impact us much more directly than this. Don't get your panties in a wad over it.

If you're out to defraud the government, you have no business whining about them putting security devices in laser printers anyway, because if you're using a commercial Xerox machine for your nefarious activities, then're just not a very smart seditionist!
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IDemo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-20-05 08:32 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Small end color laserjets are quite common
"virtually all color printers sold to consumers are INK JETS, not lasers."

Wrong. Color laser jets have dropped in price considerably over the past several years. The toner is still more expensive than ink, but personal color laserjets are quite popular:

As I mentioned in another thread about this topic yesterday, a firmware engineer from a major manufacturer told me "We used to do the yellow dot thing on the high-end models, but switched to an algorithm that recognizes most currencies and simply cancels the print."
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