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Although modern printers are distinguished by the label their manufacturers give them, the insides aren't that different from one another. This is because their print engines are made by only a few companies, such as Toshiba Corp., Canon Inc. and Ricoh Co. Ltd. It is the engine that has its own identity that can be traced.
It appears that although consumers aren't aware of the hidden code on their color prints, government agencies are. And they are using this knowledge in their battle against counterfeiters -- with help from well-known printer manufacturers.
Sources familiar with the printer industry confirm this built-in security is in fact a unique number that is printed on every color page. The code, in yellow, can be printed on a line as thin as 0.1 millimeter.
With help from manufacturers like Canon, authorities can gather information about the printer used in counterfeit crimes. The number tells them in which country a specific printer has been delivered, and to what dealer. The dealer then can lead them to the local computer store where the printer was sold. source
Members of the Dutch Parliament have raised the issues on 27 October with Minister Brinkhorst of economical affairs, demanding that he should publish a list of all the involved printer manufacturers, explain why this “feature” is kept secret, and how he is encouraging the manufactures to start a public awareness campaign. source
This year, Canon was awarded a Big Brother award in the Engineering category. Its colour photocopiers print an invisible serial number of the photocopier on every copy made by it, which can be used to trace it back to the machine. In combination with the product receipt provided by the retailer to Canon, the number can be used to trace the location of the copier. The police and authorities could then survey copy shops in the area to, for example, discover the author of leaflets or organisers of demonstrations.
However, the award to Canon was based on other product features, such as its pattern recognition technology. Printers, scanners and copiers fitted with it can halt operation if “prohibited” documents are being printed or copied. But who decides what is and isn’t allowed? The application of this technology has serious implications for the right to freedom of opinion and of the press.
In the “Work” category, the supermarket chain Lidl was declared to be typical of many other companies “for the almost slave-like handling of its employees” and awarded an “Oscar” for the surveillance methods it employs against its workers… more
Originally posted by invader_chris
Woah, thats weird. I have a Canon printer. I was wondering if that applies to home printers and if so, is it possible to read the invisible serial in any way.
Originally posted by smirkley
But having just purchased a Cannon digital camera, I have to wonder what identifiers are added to my image files. ( Maybe I wont publish those ufo pictures after all, for my protection. )
[edit on 16-11-2004 by smirkley]