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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Attention Paranoiacs!

posted by on July 15 at 21:00 PM

Are you posessed by the compulsive notion that your phone conversations are secretly taped? Do shadowy someones read your email? Is your toilet paper bugged? Is your TV is secretly watching YOU? Well. It’s really so much worse than you think it is

When you print on a color laser printer, it’s likely that you are also printing a pattern of invisible yellow dots. These marks exist to allow the printer companies and governments to track and identify you — presumably as a way to combat money counterfeiting. When one person asked his printer manufacturer about turning off the tracking dots, Secret Service agents showed up at his door several days later.
And you know that the toaster comes alive at night and watches you sleep, right?



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I've seriously considered trying this, but I'm afraid they would take our computers and actually find something incriminating.

Posted by Dave | July 15, 2007 9:31 PM

This domain is registered to somebody at MIT (do a 'whois' on MIT Media Lab is also attributed at the bottom of their web page. There may actually be something to the dots thing. And don't fuck with your toaster, either.

Posted by The Bad Skool in Cambridge | July 15, 2007 9:33 PM

oh, yes, i know. it's for real. i want' being flip. and you just wait---soon they'll find out out tvs ARE really watching us. and i know my phone conversations are taped. or should be. they're fascinating.

Posted by adrian! | July 15, 2007 9:45 PM

From now on I'm only using dot matrix printers to print my terorist manifestos! Thanks, Adrian!

Posted by bad decision | July 15, 2007 9:53 PM

Even if every printer is tagged they still need to know to whom each tag corresponds. Last time I bought a printer they just scanned the bar code and I paid. No serial number or nothing. If you register the printer then maybe, but otherwise no real way to track it.

If such a thing is real, then at best it is going to tell you the make of printer and possibly could tie a printer to certain print outs, but they would need to have the printer first.

If your really worried, pay cash or buy used and there is absolutely no way they will know the pattern of your printer.

Posted by Giffy | July 15, 2007 10:01 PM

back in the old days of typewriters, they could tell what sort of typewriter was used to type things up.

I don't know that because I'm old. I know it because I remember them talking about that during the whole stink the propagandists launched against Dan Rather when he exposed Bush as a draft dodger.

And maybe a little because I'm old.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | July 15, 2007 10:19 PM

Oh. Come. On.

If this were true than all email messages would go thru cable and phone trunk lines that are scanned continuously by DARPA.

If this were true than all printers would have chipsets with access codes permitting the US military to hijack them and use them as IP listening devices in, oh, say, Iraq ... and now Iran.

If this were true than ... I couldn't say certain things were true, because I used to hold a SECRET clearance, and you aren't cleared to know this.

By the way, anyone notice that tinfoil prices are up?

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 15, 2007 10:36 PM

A Secret clearance entitles you to know what your own unit is doing, more or less.

A Top Secret clearance entitles you to know perhaps some of the context for what your unit is doing, as long the info is not restricted to those with a need to know (even if you are someone who needs to know).

A Top Secret clearance with an endorsement for Sensitive Compartmentalized Information entitles you to perhaps know some slightly sensitive aspects of the context for what your own unit is doing, assuming you have a legitimate need to know.

Holding a TS/SCI is fun and all, but don't let anyone bullshit you by claiming it grants any impressive access to government secrets.

Posted by lostboy | July 15, 2007 11:45 PM

This has been out for a while. Note the Washington Post article from 2005:

"Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer privacy group, said it had cracked the code used in a widely used line of Xerox printers, an invisible bar code of sorts that contains the serial number of the printer as well as the date and time a document was printed.

With the Xerox printers, the information appears as a pattern of yellow dots, each only a millimeter wide and visible only with a magnifying glass and a blue light.

The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from nearly every major printer manufacturer, including Hewlett-Packard Co., though its team has so far cracked the codes for only one type of Xerox printer."

If you've counterfeited or sent a terrorist manifesto from your color printer, you're probably fucked. Sorry.

Posted by rb | July 16, 2007 12:03 AM

So, humoring this piece, what happens if you buy a printer second-hand or a refurb unit from a shop? Wouldn't it trace back to someone well up the chain, who probably isn't going to know where the printer trickled down to?

Also, lostboy, assuming this is TOP SECRET or SENSITIVE BLA BLAH BLAH info... wouldn't whoever leaked this get in an awful fuckload of trouble for doing so? And why would one risk their own lives like that, just to tell everyone that color laser printers can be traced?

Sounds to me like a bunch of bullshit from the usual sources.

Posted by Gomez | July 16, 2007 12:53 AM

Gomez @10, my little treatise on security clearances has nothing to do with laser printers. It was just a reply to Will in Seattle's jest @7:

I couldn't say certain things were true, because I used to hold a SECRET clearance, and you aren't cleared to know this.

Also, the information about the laser printers wasn't leaked. It was uncovered by some enterprising journalists.

And even if this was about someone divulging classified information, the risk would be at worst some jail time, hardly life and death.

Posted by lostboy | July 16, 2007 4:31 AM

Also, Gomez and everyone, the point of the yellow dots is not to find the counterfeiter. It is to produce evidence by positively linking the counterfeit money to the printer seized when police search the suspect's property, after finding their target through normal legwork. The whole purchase records question is a red herring.

Posted by lostboy | July 16, 2007 4:42 AM

lostboy is exactly right there, hence news footage of agents confiscating computers AND printers from various raided houses.

Posted by exactly | July 16, 2007 10:12 AM

Take out the yellow ink tank, problem solved?

Posted by Diana | July 16, 2007 10:31 AM

You might have a little trouble producing green money with the yellow toner removed...

Posted by lostboy | July 16, 2007 10:38 AM
Posted by Mr. Poe | July 16, 2007 10:41 AM

@8 - maybe in the US it does. I never said where.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 16, 2007 10:41 AM

I actually think the idea of anyone listening in on my phone conversations is somewhat amusing.

"Hi, how late are you open?... Thanks!"

"I'll be home in about 20 minutes. Did you remember to take some chicken out of the freezer? OK, love you, bye."

"Hello... Yes, this is the lady of the house... No, not interested, thanks."

"Hello... No, I'm sorry, you have the wrong number."

That's pretty much the sum total of the conversations I have on the telephone.

Posted by Geni | July 16, 2007 3:10 PM

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