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Thursday, November 03, 2005

US Government is Tracking you Through Your Printer

No I'm not some crazy conspiracy theorist. This is true. If you are printing documents from a color laser printer, you could be getting tracked by the feds. Take out a magnifying glass and a blue light (yeah, cause eveyone's got one of them lying around the house) and start looking for any weird dots. Coded data has been found on pages printed on printers manufactured by nearly every major printer company including HP and Xerox. The code has so far only been cracked on Xerox printers though. The coded data codes the printers serial number as well as date and time the document was printed. The US Secret Service has acknowledged the existence of these codes but say they are "strictly a countermeasure to prevent illegal activity specific to counterfeiting". The hidden codes were confirmed by a Xerox spokesman, Bill MacKee, who also said they were simply assisting an agency that asked for help. HP said in a statement that it is involved in anti-counterfeiting measure and supports the cooperation between the printer industry and those who are working to reduce counterfeiting. Not only this, but research has shown the coding on documents produced by printers that were at least 10 years old.

One could argue that this is a huge breach of privacy but I'm not sure I'm really all that appalled. I mean, the amount of trouble it would take to track a printout to and end user seems like an awful lot to go through for no reason. As long as you're not printing Benjamins in your basement I think you should be just fine. But still, where do we draw the line?


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