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Secret Code in Color Printers Lets Government Track You
EFF ^ | 17 Oct 05 | Seth Schoen

Posted on 10/18/2005 6:54:07 AM PDT by antiRepublicrat

Tiny Dots Show Where and When You Made Your Print

San Francisco - A research team led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently broke the code behind tiny tracking dots that some color laser printers secretly hide in every document.

The U.S. Secret Service admitted that the tracking information is part of a deal struck with selected color laser printer manufacturers, ostensibly to identify counterfeiters. However, the nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known.

"We've found that the dots from at least one line of printers encode the date and time your document was printed, as well as the serial number of the printer," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth David Schoen.

You can see the dots on color prints from machines made by Xerox, Canon, and other manufacturers (for a list of the printers we investigated so far, see: http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/list.php). The dots are yellow, less than one millimeter in diameter, and are typically repeated over each page of a document. In order to see the pattern, you need a blue light, a magnifying glass, or a microscope (for instructions on how to see the dots, see: http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/docucolor/).

EFF and its partners began its project to break the printer code with the Xerox DocuColor line. Researchers Schoen, EFF intern Robert Lee, and volunteers Patrick Murphy and Joel Alwen compared dots from test pages sent in by EFF supporters, noting similarities and differences in their arrangement, and then found a simple way to read the pattern.

"So far, we've only broken the code for Xerox DocuColor printers," said Schoen. "But we believe that other models from other manufacturers include the same personally identifiable information in their tracking dots."

You can decode your own Xerox DocuColor prints using EFF's automated program at http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/docucolor/index.php#program.

Xerox previously admitted that it provided these tracking dots to the government, but indicated that only the Secret Service had the ability to read the code. The Secret Service maintains that it only uses the information for criminal counterfeit investigations. However, there are no laws to prevent the government from abusing this information.

"Underground democracy movements that produce political or religious pamphlets and flyers, like the Russian samizdat of the 1980s, will always need the anonymity of simple paper documents, but this technology makes it easier for governments to find dissenters," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien. "Even worse, it shows how the government and private industry make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by compromising everyday equipment like printers. The logical next question is: what other deals have been or are being made to ensure that our technology rats on us?"

EFF is still working on cracking the codes from other printers and we need the public's help. Find out how you can make your own test pages to be included in our research at http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/wp.php#testsheets.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Government
KEYWORDS: anonymousspeech; cnim; colorprinters; counterfeiting; eff; privacy; secretservice
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Update to earlier post.

EFF has cracked the code for Xerox. Anybody can now know the print date and serial number of the Xerox color laser printer you use to print anything. Other brands coming soon.

So, FReepers, be careful of what you print.

1 posted on 10/18/2005 6:54:10 AM PDT by antiRepublicrat
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To: antiRepublicrat
Paging Michael Rivero. Michael Rivero.... please pick up the white courtesy phone.
2 posted on 10/18/2005 6:55:36 AM PDT by kjam22
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Let's get "cracking" on those National Guard documents!


3 posted on 10/18/2005 6:56:57 AM PDT by vollmond (Careful with that axe, Eugene!)
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To: antiRepublicrat
What about a copy of a certain memo from Kinkos in Texas? I wonder if this can be tracked. That would be the icing on the cake!
4 posted on 10/18/2005 6:56:57 AM PDT by frogjerk (LIBERALISM - Being miserable for no good reason)
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To: antiRepublicrat

bump


5 posted on 10/18/2005 6:57:02 AM PDT by Chickensoup (Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!)
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To: antiRepublicrat

I can see the fnords...


6 posted on 10/18/2005 6:57:14 AM PDT by boris (The deadliest weapon of mass destruction in history is a leftist with a word processor.)
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To: frogjerk

We tied!


7 posted on 10/18/2005 6:57:38 AM PDT by vollmond (Careful with that axe, Eugene!)
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To: antiRepublicrat

Track this!

8 posted on 10/18/2005 6:57:57 AM PDT by frogjerk (LIBERALISM - Being miserable for no good reason)
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To: vollmond
We tied!

WOW!

9 posted on 10/18/2005 6:58:57 AM PDT by frogjerk (LIBERALISM - Being miserable for no good reason)
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To: antiRepublicrat
"We've found that the dots from at least one line of printers encode the date and time your document was printed, as well as the serial number of the printer," said EFF Staff Technologist Seth David Schoen.

I dunno...sounds a bit tinfoilesque to me.

10 posted on 10/18/2005 6:59:43 AM PDT by ErnBatavia (Like a midget at a urinal - stay on your toes...)
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To: ErnBatavia

The EFF might be many things, but they aren't tinfoilers.


11 posted on 10/18/2005 7:02:34 AM PDT by Terpfen (Bush is playing chess. Remember that, and stop playing checkers.)
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To: antiRepublicrat
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

Those printing money, drivers license, social security cards, false IDs etc. should worry a lot.....

12 posted on 10/18/2005 7:02:38 AM PDT by yoe
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To: vollmond

I would think the analog B&W copying at Kinkos would destroy this.

Indeed, any B&W print would be safe.


13 posted on 10/18/2005 7:02:59 AM PDT by MeanWestTexan (Many at FR would respond to Christ "Darn right, I'll cast the first stone!")
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To: antiRepublicrat

Just avoid laser printers, from the look of things that are discussed here.


14 posted on 10/18/2005 7:03:45 AM PDT by BIRDS
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To: antiRepublicrat

Liberals are going to hate this. Everytime they print fake documents aledging some famous republican was gay we can trace exactly what printer they used to forge em.


15 posted on 10/18/2005 7:03:53 AM PDT by x5452
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To: ErnBatavia

This was announced and started early last year.


16 posted on 10/18/2005 7:03:58 AM PDT by boomop1
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To: yoe

"If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you."

Yeah, and the Clintons didn't use the IRS to abuse their critics.

Print a criticle article: get harrassed. Heck, get investigated and spend $100,000 making sure you don't get railroaded into jail for doing nothing.

When thinking about government power, assume Hillary Clinton is president with Jame Carville running the FBI.


17 posted on 10/18/2005 7:05:47 AM PDT by MeanWestTexan (Many at FR would respond to Christ "Darn right, I'll cast the first stone!")
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To: antiRepublicrat

Seems that the issue is that laser printers are potentially (and are, actually) used by counterfitters and other document forgers to do their dirty deeds.

Using an inkjet is fine for most printed documents otherwise, for most people. Laser printers are great for profound b&w documents, so it also seems it's a case of color lasers being appealing to the wrong clients for their wrongful deeds.

Most people don't have all that much to protect that isn't already knowable to those who need to know, if/when there is or isn't criminal behavior going on. I don't LIKE the idea of being spied upon and read up on -- not at all -- but I'd just avoid color lasers and use an inkjet and not engage in forging documents!

Or use a color laser with the knowledge that what you're printing is potentially viewable to others. Everything at Kinko's has been for a while now (not at all private).


18 posted on 10/18/2005 7:07:34 AM PDT by BIRDS
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To: antiRepublicrat

Why do I think the ACLU might have something to say about this?


19 posted on 10/18/2005 7:09:07 AM PDT by RedCell
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To: MeanWestTexan

In my experience, ALL politicians use governmental agencies to invade the lives of those they perceive as not being in their pocket or predictable.

They do seem to be increasing instances of rewarding those who are most harmful and harassing those who are most vulnerable, and all across the board. I think we have a bad Congress, all told.


20 posted on 10/18/2005 7:09:53 AM PDT by BIRDS
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To: antiRepublicrat
So, FReepers, be careful of what you print.

I'm sure the SS will be all over that recipe for cream of mushroom soup I printed yesterday. Needless to say, I'm not worried.

21 posted on 10/18/2005 7:10:31 AM PDT by Trust but Verify (( ))
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To: BIRDS

Seems to me that you could avoid registering the warranty and remain anonymous.


22 posted on 10/18/2005 7:10:40 AM PDT by Sgt_Schultze
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

I bet you also think the government doesn't do anything illegal .... show me your papers comrade.

23 posted on 10/18/2005 7:13:03 AM PDT by Yasotay
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

Between the various Supreme Court rulings which effectively eliminate private property, the Sarbanes-Oxley idiocy, and trial lawyer jackpot hunting, there is no way of knowing what a future black robed thug will decide is illegal.

24 posted on 10/18/2005 7:13:18 AM PDT by NativeNewYorker
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

Like printing handbills against say, a future Clinton admin? I'm always amazed at conservatives who think nothing of letting their freedom slip away.....
25 posted on 10/18/2005 7:14:12 AM PDT by Kozak (Anti Shahada: " There is no God named Allah, and Muhammed is his False Prophet")
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To: Sgt_Schultze
Seems to me that you could avoid registering the warranty and remain anonymous.

Don't you ever watch Law & Order (the original)? Those guys could track down who bought the bubble gum stuck to the bottom of a desk... without DNA testing. I'm sure the same thing would apply with a piece of hardware [tinfoil hat on].
26 posted on 10/18/2005 7:14:15 AM PDT by RedCell
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To: antiRepublicrat
Amazing, scary, and Orwellian.

It appears 1984 was not a warning, it was a training manual.

27 posted on 10/18/2005 7:14:51 AM PDT by Lazamataz (Islam is merely Nazism without the snappy fashion sense.)
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

Please don't confuse the desire for privacy with attempts to conceal criminal behavior. Do you seal your letters? Would you object to cameras and microphones being installed in your house and car? If yes, do you have anything to hide?

Those printing money, drivers license, social security cards, false IDs etc. should worry a lot.....

And we can see how many times the government uses those dots to prosecute those crimes from all the newspaper reports of those people being busted. Right?

28 posted on 10/18/2005 7:15:00 AM PDT by coloradan (Hence, etc.)
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

That stupid comment should be banned from FR.

29 posted on 10/18/2005 7:15:48 AM PDT by Sir Gawain
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To: antiRepublicrat

...and don't use your gps enabled cellphone, nor your new gps equipped car, with dialup capabilities, and OnStar type stuff. Oh, yeah, the black boxes are to track crashes...


30 posted on 10/18/2005 7:17:17 AM PDT by pageonetoo (You'll spot their posts soon enough!)
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To: Kozak

"If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you."

by that logic, it's perfectly ok for police to enter your property and perform a search at any time without a warrant..after all, if you're not doing anything illegal, this shouldn't bother you.


31 posted on 10/18/2005 7:18:28 AM PDT by GeorgiaDawg32 (Honest officer, I wasn't speeding.....I was qualifying)
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To: antiRepublicrat

I guess that like guns, it would be smart to buy them privately, with cash. As of yet, it is not illegal to buy printers without government knowledge. When Hillary makes it illegal, then we'll know for sure which way we are headed.


32 posted on 10/18/2005 7:18:54 AM PDT by Atlas Sneezed (Your FRiendly FReeper Patent Attorney)
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

The battle-cry of the Hardened Statist.

I am doing nothing illegal, and I am bothered by this quite thoroughly. My only shock is that there are those who are not.

33 posted on 10/18/2005 7:20:15 AM PDT by Lazamataz (Islam is merely Nazism without the snappy fashion sense.)
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To: Kozak
"I'm always amazed at conservatives who think nothing of letting their freedom slip away....."

Or applaud while it's happening.
34 posted on 10/18/2005 7:20:37 AM PDT by LIConFem (A fronte praecipitium, a tergo lupi.)
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To: MeanWestTexan
When thinking about government power, assume Hillary Clinton is president with Jame Carville running the FBI.

When thinking about government power, assume Hillary Clinton is president with Jame Carville Craig Livingstone running the FBI, and Bill Clinton as Atty General.

35 posted on 10/18/2005 7:20:47 AM PDT by pageonetoo (You'll spot their posts soon enough!)
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.
As well as anyone trying to print a dissenting newspaper during the next Clinton administration. Why are you so willing to give up your freedoms?
36 posted on 10/18/2005 7:21:25 AM PDT by Quick1
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To: Sir Gawain
That stupid comment should be banned from FR.

Agreed! That moronic comment is one of the few things that makes me really angry around here.
37 posted on 10/18/2005 7:23:13 AM PDT by Quick1
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To: yoe
I will send some deputies over later today to search your house, if you have done nothing wrong than nothing to worry about comrade
38 posted on 10/18/2005 7:23:23 AM PDT by vrwc0915
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To: ErnBatavia
We've found that the dots from at least one line of printers encode the date and time your document was printed, as well as the serial number of the printer...

And Jello will leave a radioactive trail wherever you took a dump!

This is hogwash and useless as a law-enforcement tool. Just dispose of your printer after use and nothing can be proven.

39 posted on 10/18/2005 7:26:26 AM PDT by Erik Latranyi (9-11 is your Peace Dividend)
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To: Trust but Verify
Needless to say, I'm not worried.

I guess you wouldn't mind if I read all your mail then, either? How about if I searched your house? Nothing to worry about, right?
40 posted on 10/18/2005 7:27:02 AM PDT by Quick1
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To: MeanWestTexan

Bump


41 posted on 10/18/2005 7:28:52 AM PDT by greyfoxx39 (Why can we find one cow with mad cow among millions, but can't find thousands of illegal immigrants?)
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To: antiRepublicrat

bump for thursday


42 posted on 10/18/2005 7:32:03 AM PDT by newsgatherer
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To: Erik Latranyi

no, part of the point is they can match things printed by the same printer w/o any other information... thus using to contents of various printed items to help identify a person.


43 posted on 10/18/2005 7:36:09 AM PDT by kpp_kpp
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To: Sgt_Schultze
Seems to me that you could avoid registering the warranty and remain anonymous.

Even the government can't be stupid enough to believe that counterfeiters are going to fill out the warranty card on their printers.

I would imagine this is an aid in proving guilt after the perpetrator is caught.

44 posted on 10/18/2005 7:37:31 AM PDT by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: Sgt_Schultze

not entirely, reading the article it seems that part of the purpose is just to match things printed by the same printer. then looking at the contents of what was printed be able to better identify or assemble a profile.


45 posted on 10/18/2005 7:38:10 AM PDT by kpp_kpp
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To: yoe
"If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.."

The standard bleat of the typical government apologist. Get this---there are things government has NO BUSINESS whatsoever doing. This kind of spying is one of them (and no, don't try to justify it with "War on Terrror" bullbleep either).

46 posted on 10/18/2005 7:40:33 AM PDT by Wonder Warthog (\\)
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To: Sir Gawain

i agree.

there are enough laws on the books to indict every single person in this country for something... all 'law enforcement' needs is the ability to poke and peek.


47 posted on 10/18/2005 7:40:52 AM PDT by kpp_kpp
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To: Sgt_Schultze

..or steal one, or buy one on the black market, or buy a used one, or use someone else's...


48 posted on 10/18/2005 7:43:24 AM PDT by Orbiter
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To: yoe
If you are not doing anything illegal, this should not bother you.

I understand the need for this technology, and I do know a case where counterfeiting was caught using it, but there are no privacy or other safeguards set up in this system. All we have is the Secret Service saying they want it for anti-counterfeiting. What's to keep President Hillary for telling them to find out who printed a phamphlet critical of her?

At a minimum I want laws stating:

  1. A serial number lookup can only be done in conjunction with a USSS counterfeiting or FBI kidnapping (ransom note) or child pornography investigation.
  2. The lookup can only be done with a federal warrant, the document presented to the issuing judge, and it must be prima facie evidence of one of the above felonies.
  3. Printer manufacturers shall treat the serial number/client lists as classified information and subject them to commensurate safeguards. The information may be used within the company for normal operational purposes, and shall only be released outside when presented with a valid federal warrant satisfying 1 & 2.
That would start to make me happy.
49 posted on 10/18/2005 7:45:11 AM PDT by antiRepublicrat
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To: yoe

I got news for yea. You did something illegal. Or at least you have sad something that some politician doesn’t like. You just don't know what it was.

Worried yet?

You should be.

This same technology can be used to track down the printer the made a sign that says something is simple as

"Eat at Joes"

If “Joe” is on the wrong side of the political fence so is the owner of the printer. Both could hang in the same dungeon.

Doubt me?

Take a ride through history. Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, Communist China… They all did it. Hell even our own British masters went on a rampage to destroy printers in the 18th century.

Worried yet?

You should be.


50 posted on 10/18/2005 7:45:31 AM PDT by grayforkbeard (Precision weapons win battles. Bombing the whole country flat wins wars)
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