Using a laser printer? Careful what you print.....
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Thread: Using a laser printer? Careful what you print.....

  1. #1
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    Using a laser printer? Careful what you print.....

    WASHINGTON--Next time you make a printout from your color laser printer, shine an LED flashlight beam on it and examine it closely with a magnifying glass. You might be able to see the small, scattered yellow dots printer there that could be used to trace the document back to you.


    According to experts, several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce. Governments, including the United States, already use the hidden markings to track counterfeiters.


    Peter Crean, a senior research fellow at Xerox, says his company's laser printers, copiers and multifunction workstations, such as its WorkCentre Pro series, put the "serial number of each machine coded in little yellow dots" in every printout. The millimeter-sized dots appear about every inch on a page, nestled within the printed words and margins.


    "It's a trail back to you, like a license plate," Crean says.


    The dots' minuscule size, covering less than one-thousandth of the page, along with their color combination of yellow on white, makes them invisible to the naked eye, Crean says. One way to determine if your color laser is applying this tracking process is to shine a blue LED light--say, from a keychain laser flashlight--on your page and use a magnifier.

    Crime Fighting vs. Privacy

    Laser-printing technology makes it incredibly easy to counterfeit money and documents, and Crean says the dots, in use in some printers for decades, allow law enforcement to identify and track down counterfeiters.


    However, they could also be employed to track a document back to any person or business that printed it. Although the technology has existed for a long time, printer companies have not been required to notify customers of the feature.


    Lorelei Pagano, a counterfeiting specialist with the U.S. Secret Service, stresses that the government uses the embedded serial numbers only when alerted to a forgery. "The only time any information is gained from these documents is purely in [the case of] a criminal act," she says.


    John Morris, a lawyer for The Center for Democracy and Technology, says, "That type of assurance doesn't really assure me at all, unless there's some type of statute." He adds, "At a bare minimum, there needs to be a notice to consumers."


    If the practice disturbs you, don't bother trying to disable the encoding mechanism--you'll probably just break your printer.


    Crean describes the device as a chip located "way in the machine, right near the laser" that embeds the dots when the document "is about 20 billionths of a second" from printing.


    "Standard mischief won't get you around it," Crean adds.


    Neither Crean nor Pagano has an estimate of how many laser printers, copiers, and multifunction devices track documents, but they say that the practice is commonplace among major printer companies.


    "The industry absolutely has been extraordinarily helpful [to law enforcement]," Pagano says.


    According to Pagano, counterfeiting cases are brought to the Secret Service, which checks the documents, determines the brand and serial number of the printer, and contacts the company. Some, like Xerox, have a customer database, and they share the information with the government.


    Crean says Xerox and the government have a good relationship. "The U.S. government had been on board all along--they would actually come out to our labs," Crean says.

    History

    Unlike ink jet printers, laser printers, fax machines, and copiers fire a laser through a mirror and series of lenses to embed the document or image on a page. Such devices range from a little over $100 to more than $1000, and are designed for both home and office.


    Crean says Xerox pioneered this technology about 20 years ago, to assuage fears that their color copiers could easily be used to counterfeit bills.

    "We developed the first (encoding mechanism) in house because several countries had expressed concern about allowing us to sell the printers in their country," Crean says.

    Since then, he says, many other companies have adopted the practice.

    The United States is not the only country teaming with private industry to fight counterfeiters. A recent article points to the Dutch government as using similar anticounterfeiting methods, and cites Canon as a company with encoding technology. Canon USA declined to comment.
    Source: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=stor...8664&printer=1


    I see the benefits, but I can see how this can severly invade one's privacy.

  2. #2
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    This was posted about 4 days ago so you won't get much of a reply

  3. #3
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    I can't really see how it's an invasion of privacy. In order to see where the document came from, you'd have to really WANT to see the serial number. Also, it isn't considered an invasion of privacy when you have a liscense plate on your car.. just the same: if people wanted to see who the car belonged to, they'd have to really work to find out.. I think it's a decent idea. It doesn't really effect what is printed and probably wouldn't even be noticed by the standard user.. so I have to disagree with your invasion to privacy remark.

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    I would have to disagree - I believe it is a complete invasion of privacy. The thing about license plates is that we all know that cars have them, they're not hidden. This technology (as far as I can tell from the article) has been hidden from most of the customers of companies with the technology.

    You might say that it shouldn't matter to you if you aren't doing anything wrong, but is this practise that far removed from the way that many spybot programs transparently collect information about people's computers and send them off to companies. I'm not trying to say they are the same, but close enough.

    ac

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    I do agree, it would be nice if they would disclose that information when you go to buy a printer, or maybe they knew people might not like that idea. Anonymity is something you should expect even in your printer. I think the idea is total Bullsh*t.

    [hippie rant] More ways for the man to spy on you man!!! [/hippie rant]

  6. #6
    They call me the Hunted foxyloxley's Avatar
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    Stop the press :
    The Government has found ANOTHER way to watch over us................

    Get over it.
    In this world, we only find out about things WAY too late.
    This has been implemented for YEARS.
    Xerox pioneered this technology about 20 years ago
    By now, there will be an entirely new way to keep us under survailance.

    Live with it, don't try to fight it, just stop copying those $$ bills
    55 - I'm fiftyfeckinfive and STILL no wiser,
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    Beware of Geeks bearing GIF's
    come and waste the day :P at The Taz Zone

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    Oh well, we can still bitch about it. *shrugs* I wonder what else the Man has in place? *looks over his shoulder*

  8. #8
    Super Moderator: GMT Zone nihil's Avatar
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    I don't really see this as much of an issue, as it really only comes into effect in cases of counterfeiting? Mostly you would know the source of a document anyway so how could it matter?

    I would expect counterfeiters to use second user or stolen equipment anyway.

    If there are the dots, and there shouldn't be (like on currency) it stops counterfeiters using the equipment.

    It seems to be very much "after the event" sort of stuff rather than invasion of privacy, because it is not interactive. What about the metadata in MS Office documents? or the ballistics of firearms, or the DNA you inherited from your parents.................

    To my simple mind, invasion of privacy has to be rather more proactive than this. I think that this is more forensics. Anyway do you need a licence or proof of identity to buy one?...............so all it would prove is that documents came from the same machine. Proving who printed them is another days work.
    If you cannot do someone any good: don't do them any harm....
    As long as you did this to one of these, the least of my little ones............you did it unto Me.
    What profiteth a man if he gains the entire World at the expense of his immortal soul?

  9. #9
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    I don't really see this as much of an issue, as it really only comes into effect in cases of counterfeiting? Mostly you would know the source of a document anyway so how could it matter?

    I would expect counterfeiters to use second user or stolen equipment anyway.

    If there are the dots, and there shouldn't be (like on currency) it stops counterfeiters using the equipment.

    It seems to be very much "after the event" sort of stuff rather than invasion of privacy, because it is not interactive. What about the metadata in MS Office documents? or the ballistics of firearms, or the DNA you inherited from your parents.................

    To my simple mind, invasion of privacy has to be rather more proactive than this. I think that this is more forensics. Anyway do you need a licence or proof of identity to buy one?...............so all it would prove is that documents came from the same machine. Proving who printed them is another days work.
    I some what agree I don't think that this is a real invasion of privacy but I do think that they should be obligated to tell you the consumer that it is in place because as fyrewall said that this was posted 4 years ago well if you asked any one on the street today if they knew about it they wound not. also I don't think that this would just be used in counterfeiting cases but in any case ware a piece of evidence that just so happens to be a piece of paper from a laser printer.

  10. #10
    AO's Fluffy Bunny cdkj's Avatar
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    I have to totally disagree it's not an invasion of privacy it's only use is for tracking down counterfeiting. i work for 5 years with Xerox and Canons copy machines
    I had to google 'jfgi' to see what it meant. The irony is overwhelming.

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