Pages coming out of your printer may contain hidden color dot codes that can allow US government to track you down. It sounds unreal but it is true.
The issue was first touched upon by the PC World magazine in an article, Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents, published in November 2004. The article reported that the “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 Corporation as saying that the dots contained a “secret digital license tag to help law enforcement officials.”
“Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer privacy group, said it had cracked the code used in a widely used line of Xerox printers, an invisible bar code of sorts that contains the serial number of the printer as well as the date and time a document was printed.” (Washington Post )
EFF has posted information on its website on how to decode the printer codes here.
The Washington Post also reports, “The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from nearly every major printer manufacturer, including Hewlett-Packard, though its team has so far cracked the codes for only one type of Xerox printer”.
A spokesman for Xerox said that the program was done at the behest of Government agencies and was in “cooperation with government agencies, competing manufacturers and a onsortium of banks”.
This is a brazen violation of trust that deserves a strong response. You may be for privacy or not care about the topic – the issue at hand is not violation of privacy but violation of trust. Before the Government goes ahead and starts putting secret color dots on the paper that I print and pay for, it needs to discuss the issue with me and every citizen of this country.