July 14, 2008, - 5:29 pm

Big Brother Now in Your Printer

By Debbie Schlussel
As a conservative who supports law enforcement and fighting Islamic terrorism, I’m all for tracing where terrorist attacks come from and finding the evidence with ease. I’m also for surveilling and listening to phone calls when there is reasonable suspicion that the person is involved or might be involved in terrorist plotting or is talking to someone who might.
But this is going WAAAAY too far:

The affordability and growing popularity of color laser printers is raising concerns among civil liberties advocates that your privacy may not be worth the paper you’re printing on.

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More manufacturers are outfitting greater numbers of laser printers with technology that leaves microscopic yellow dots on each printed page to identify the printer’s serial number ‚Äî and ultimately, you, says the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the leading watchdogs of electronic privacy.
The technology has been around for years, but the declining price of laser printers and the increasing number of models with this feature is causing renewed concerns.
The dots, invisible to the naked eye, can be seen using a blue LED light and are used by authorities such as the Secret Service to investigate counterfeit bills made with laser printers, says Lorelei Pagano, director of the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group.
Privacy advocates worry that the little-known technology could ensnare political dissidents, whistle-blowers or anyone who prints materials that authorities want to track.
“There’s nothing about this technology that limits its application to counterfeit investigations,” says Seth Schoen, a computer programmer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Some people who aren’t doing anything wrong may have their privacy threatened.” Schoen’s tests have found the dots produced by 111 color laser printers made by 13 companies including Xerox, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Epson and Brother.
The dots are produced only on laser devices and not ink-jet printers, which are most commonly used at home. But laser printers, which produce more durable images, are becoming increasingly popular as their price has dropped to as low as $300, says Angele Boyd, a vice president of IDC Research.
Although laser printers made up only 4% of the 33 million printers sold last year in the USA, their sales have been growing by double digits since 2004, Boyd says.
The technology began as laser printers were first produced in the mid-1980s and governments and banks feared an explosion of counterfeiting, Xerox spokesman Bill McKee says. “In many cases, it is a requirement to do business internationally that the printers are equipped with this technology,” McKee says.
The dots tell authorities the serial number of a printer that made a document. In some cases, it also tells the time and date it was printed, Pagano says. “The Secret Service is the only U.S. body that has the ability to decode the information,” she says.
Printer makers “cooperate with law enforcement” and will tell authorities where a printer was made and sold, McKee says.
The Secret Service uses the dots only to investigate counterfeiting, agency spokesman Ed Donovan says.

PUH-LEEZE. Criminals will find a way to get around this, and only you and I–innocent citizens–will be the ones this will be used against. And not necessarily by law enforcement, but other parties who might sue you, etc.
Sure, you might ask why a person will care if what they printed out is traceable if they never print out threats. Well, I’ll tell you why. People send anonymous letters for various reasons–and it’s not always for the purpose of threats.
I, myself, for example, can now disclose that in 2004, I sent an anonymous letter to a political interest group–a whorish organization that doesn’t really care about what it pretends to stand for–an anonymous letter asking them not to endorse a woman by the name of Lois Shulman, a sleazy woman who claimed to support their interests. I sent them a past newspaper article I’d saved in which she came out against the group and its positions and I reversed their plan to endorse her. As a result she lost her race for the Michigan House of Representatives. I sent the letter anonymously for a reason. I didn’t want anyone to know I was behind it. It might have changed their response.
I don’t believe for a second that this new development with printers will help solve a single crime. But what it will do is create a black market on old printers. And it will create subpoenas in a lot o lawsuits, in which lawyers demand companies identify these invisible identifiers for them.
It’s an incredible invasion of privacy and not a good development at all in America. V. I. Lenin and other Communist leaders dreamed of this day in Big Brother’s growing set of encroachments.
Well, now you have another reason not to register your printer with the manufacturer to take advantage of the warranty.
Big Brother is now Morbidly Obese Brother.

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7 Responses

Debbie,
Thanks for posting this as I never wade into the swamp over there at USA Today.

Azygos on July 14, 2008 at 6:32 pm

“Criminals will find a way to get around this….”
Given how stupid some of our Islamofascist friends are, they probably wouldn’t find a way around it.
Still, scary stuff.
[KK: THEY’RE NOT THAT STUPID. PLENTY OF THEM ARE QUITE SMART. DS]

Kalifornia Kafir on July 14, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Great reporting Debbie. How much further down the marxist hole can we go? It is the same with Islamism. Freedom and liberty are lost either way. Said G. Washington:
The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves.
It was a fact then; it is a fact now. We had the will to resist then. I’m not sure about now.

Southernops on July 14, 2008 at 8:17 pm

Do we have to worry about our digital cameras too? That makes me want to stick to old fashioned film. It would be wonderful if any surveillance technology could only be directed against the bad guys but its also open to abuse. I don’t trust Big Business’ plans for us any more than I trust Big Government’s. What law-abiding people do is no one else’s business.

NormanF on July 14, 2008 at 9:30 pm

I could be wrong but I think that law enforecment was able to trace one/some of the letters that serial killer BTK sent them to a specific copier/printer in the Wichita State College Library. I think it was one of the few early leads that they had in the case. Eventually he was caught by using computer forensics to trace a disc he sent to the police. So basically like most things it could be good or bad.

OneIrishJew on July 14, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Dennis Raider BTK, was traced thru data embedded by Microsoft Word, as for digital photos the EXLIF data isnt much good for tracing you

WPDunn71901 on July 15, 2008 at 10:27 am

If the Feds are interested in tracking down counterfeiters, they don’t need to bother with printers. They can go right to the source – The Federal Reserve (and every bank that engages in fractional reserve banking under Federal Reserve auspices).

salt1907 on July 15, 2008 at 4:04 pm

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