Your printer may reveal more than you’d like

Find Out If Your Printer is Spying on You

Wed July 18, 2007 4:20 PM EDT

Did you know that many (in fact, most) color laser printers are spying on you whenever you print a document? Though you may not have heard the news, the discovery was announced in late 2005. Manufacturers embed a pattern of tiny yellow dots on printed pages. The dots are too small to be seen with the naked eye (especially since they’re yellow, see the above photo to see what they actually look like), but under a microscope and blue light they’re revealed. The dots are placed in a pattern unique to each printer, and since most color laser printers are purchased through well-documented service providers or direct from the manufacturer, it’s simple to track any printed page back to the owner of the printer.

The original idea was obviously to help the government track down currency counterfeiters, since any phony money would be tagged with the yellow dots and would be easily trackable back to the source. But there are also signs of abuse, with the FBI reportedly using the technology to keep tabs on who’s printing material for groups like the ACLU and Greenpeace. That’s a little scary… and important to remember if you’ve considering printing a whistleblowing tip or any missive you’d prefer to leave anonymous on a color laser.

If the privacy ramifications of this news bother you, there’s some good news. Not all printers have the tracking dots, and the EFF has compiled and updated its list of which ones do and which ones don’t. Simply check out this page and look up your printer. (Remember, black and white lasers and inkjet printers don’t include the dots.) As the document notes, remember that even if a printer doesn’t include the dots, that doesn’t mean it isn’t using some other method to track your printed pages. If your printer isn’t listed here, that means that no information is available about whether that printer includes the dots or not.

My thoughts: This really doesn’t surprise me. Big brother is watching. I bet the government uses our cell phones to spy on us more than most people realize. A lot of people know that the government uses cells to track people’s locations. If your phone is turned off, they can still track you. You would have to take the battery out. And even then, I wonder if they can find you. I bet the government can listen in on your conversations by using a cell’s speakerphone function. This means that if your cell phone is near you while you are talking to people in person (even if you aren’t talking to anyone on that phone), they can hear you through the cell. Also, if you have a camera phone, I bet that they can see what you are doing by looking through the lense. Even if you don’t have the camera turned on, they can probably still use it to seee what you’re doing if the phone is near you. Call me paranoid and crazy. But I’d rather be safe than sorry and not find out the hard way. Plus, I don’t really have anything to hide – not that it makes it right to spy on people.


4 Comments to “Your printer may reveal more than you’d like”

  1. Listening to conversations through the speakerphone? Watching what you do through a turned off camera phone? Sounds a little paranoid and crazy to me. You better put on the aluminum foil hat so that they can’t read your thoughts too.

  2. You’re right! As a matter of fact, I should delete this journal. And smash up my computer.
    Not because I’ve posted anything wrong. But because I don’t want them to know who my friends are. No more MySpace either.
    I’m most likely going to the Depot tonight. But I’m guessing you’re working.

  3. You know “they” are reading this. So why did you go and do something silly, like tell “them” where you will be tonight. The Thought Police will be waiting for you tonight at the depot and they’re going to get you. Now you’re done for sure, they will totally erase your mind. It was nice knowing you.
    I won’t be there, they won’t catch me!!!!

  4. Old News Girl
    Girl, the news came out in 2005, from the time printers came out the Feds suggested they put that unique tracer on your printer, does your phone have GPS?? Mine doesn’t (and that was by design) the thing you should really be concerned about is implanting RFID chips in humans where all their info is stored on it (ala Minority Report), with a scan of your forehead or right hand your commercial purchases are done (Biblical prophecy, hmmm????). As for the RFID chips, they use it on pets now, what about later? Soldiers? Prisoners released on parole? The mentally ill? The RFID chip scares me more than anything.

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