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Tuesday, November 23, 2004
  Big Brother peeks out from inside your printers
Yahoo! News - Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents: "According to experts, several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce. Governments, including the United States, already use the hidden markings to track counterfeiters.

Peter Crean, a senior research fellow at Xerox, says his company's laser printers, copiers and multifunction workstations, such as its WorkCentre Pro series, put the 'serial number of each machine coded in little yellow dots' in every printout. The millimeter-sized dots appear about every inch on a page, nestled within the printed words and margins.

'It's a trail back to you, like a license plate,' Crean says.

The dots' minuscule size, covering less than one-thousandth of the page, along with their color combination of yellow on white, makes them invisible to the naked eye, Crean says. One way to determine if your color laser is applying this tracking process is to shine a blue LED light--say, from a keychain laser flashlight--on your page and use a magnifier.
Crime Fighting vs. Privacy

Laser-printing technology makes it incredibly easy to counterfeit money and documents, and Crean says the dots, in use in some printers for decades, allow law enforcement to identify and track down counterfeiters.

However, they could also be employed to track a document back to any person or business that printed it. Although the technology has existed for a long time, printer companies have not been required to notify customers of the feature."
 
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