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October 18, 2005

Your Laser Printer is a Government Spy, Maybe

It's old news in a sense (see this story from PC World, for example), but the story on tracking codes built into laser printers is worth repeating for those not familiar with the details.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation has compiled resources that explain the details behind the practice. 

Most laser printers will not only print a page, but will embed on the page a tracking code based on the serial number of the printer and the date and time the document was printed.  Xerox pioneered this practice more than 20 years ago to help identify counterfeiters who use laser printers to create fake currency.  The EFF, however, is more concerned with the other uses that these hidden codes can use.  The organization has filed FOIA requests with the United States Secret Service asking for details as to how the technology is implemented, and how the Sercret Service and other government agencies is using the technology in non-counterfeiting circumstances. 

The EFF's resource page with links to more information is here.

October 18, 2005 | Permalink

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