Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Secret Service and Yellow Tracking Dots in Printers

I was happy to receive an email today from freelance journalist Theo Karantsalis. Since 2010, he's been trying to get the US Government to fess up about which printer manufacturers they are in cahoots with.

Readers of my blog may recall an effort I made a few years ago to get Lexmark, the printer company, to fess up to using the tracking dot technology. It eventually worked - they admitted it.

Theo's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has revealed the other side of the story: the US Secret Service sent him an official list of ten manufacturers that have "fulfilled or agreed to fulfill document identification requests submitted by the Secret Service... using machine identification code technology".

The manufacturers are:

  • Canon
  • Brother
  • Casio
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Konica
  • Minolta
  • Mita
  • Ricoh
  • Sharp
  • Xerox
In other words, these manufacturers have helped (or have agreed to help, in the future) the US Government identify individuals through the near-invisible secret dot pattern that their colour printers print on every page. Lexmark didn't make the list, even though they have the dot technology enabled. 

For those of you keeping track: the government AND the manufacturers have finally fessed up: "yes, this tracking dot technology is a real thing and we use it". So it's not a secret anymore, right? Well... maybe with all the digital privacy issues these days, paper privacy issues don't get precedence. If we can't communicate privately on paper, how can we expect to communicate privately online? 

Brahm's Yellow Dots cross-post

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