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EFF Reveals Codes in Xerox Printers

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posted on Oct, 19 2005 @ 12:22 PM

NEW YORK - Just because a document from a color laser printer doesn't carry your name doesn't mean no one can trace it back to you, privacy advocates warn.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says it has cracked the tracking codes embedded in Xerox Corp.'s DocuColor color laser printers. Such codes are just one way that manufacturers employ technology to help governments fight currency counterfeiting.

"Underground democracy movements ... will always need the anonymity of simple paper documents, but this technology makes it easier for governments to find dissenters," said Lee Tien, EFF senior staff attorney. "Even worse, it shows how the government and private industry make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by compromising everyday equipment like printers."

Researchers found patterns of yellow dots arranged in 15 by 8 grids and printed repeatedly over every color page, said Seth Schoen, a staff technologist at the San Francisco-based civil-liberties group.

The dots are visible only with a magnifying glass or under blue light, which causes the yellow dots to appear black.

By analyzing test pages printed out by supporters worldwide and by staffers at various FedEx Kinko's locations, researchers found that some of the dots correspond to the printers' serial numbers. Other dots refer to the date and time of the printing.

Xerox spokesman Bill McKee would not provide details about the technology. He said the company "does not routinely share any information about its customers," though it does respond to requests from law enforcement......

...."They do not in any way track the use of a personal computer or a person's computer's hardware or software," he added, refusing to elaborate on the technologies.

But Schoen said much can be gleaned from the printouts alone.

Consider two documents, one carrying the author's name and one meant to be anonymous. By comparing the codes, it can be determined whether the two documents came from the same printer, even if Xerox reveals nothing about a customer's serial number, Schoen said.

The EFF is now studying other printers from well-known manufacturers with similar tracking codes, but whose keys remain secret.

Adobe Systems Inc. has acknowledged quietly adding the government software to its Photoshop software at the request of regulators and international bankers.

Seems a printed piece of paper is no longer anonymous. Despite what they say, I have no doubt that the technology has been included in consumer laser printers. Does anyone have one ? If so, you may wish to check it

With Adobe agreeing to embed 'anti-counterfitting' software in Photoshop; it seems the floodgates maybe about to open with all the other software companies which produce similiar software.
Also does this mean as well, that images published on the net can be backtracked to its source ?

posted on Oct, 19 2005 @ 12:32 PM
Europe was onto this a while back:

I think the only way to remain anonymous is to print leaflets and such at a copy shop without giving them your name and paying cash. This technology could be used to track down organizers of demonstrations and rallies as well as counterfeiters. As often happens a technology meant to fight crime can also be used to suppress "dissidents".

posted on Oct, 20 2005 @ 05:09 AM
Time to check my printer for those yellow dots. I'm NOT planning to counterfit money anytime soon, it's just out of curiosity.

Photoshop point you to this website when you try scanning US currency. That's fine in my book, we don't want counterfit money. The scary part is the anti-counterfitting program was provided by the government to Adobe in a compiled form, even Photoshop developers don't know what's hidding inside the code. You never know what that binary snippet could be doing to your system.

See also hidden data in Word documents. Nothing particularly secret there, it's just that non-savvy users are sharing a bunch of personal info to the world without being aware.

posted on Oct, 24 2005 @ 08:16 AM
yeah i will stick to kinkos they ignore customers anyway so its even safer

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