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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Copyfight

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October 17, 2005

Little. Yellow. Cracked.

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Posted by

I've been complaining about Blizzard using its Terms of Service (TOS) to justify spying on gamers (I Spy With My Little EULA), but sometimes companies don't offer even the illusion of choice. Your printer could be ratting you out right now, and you wouldn't have the faintest clue.

Yes, I said printer. You see, a couple months ago we learned that at the request of the Secret Service, some printer manufacturers are secretly encoding information in color print-outs that can be used to identify where the document came from. The information appears as little yellow dots that you can see only if you use a blue light and a magnifying glass or microscope. No, really.

Today, EFF announced that it has cracked the code. The results should be of great interest to attorneys in discovery proceedings. Why? Those little yellow dots will tell anyone who can decipher them the date and time your document was printed, as well as the serial number of the printer. That makes a paper document more like email -- it reveals much more nuanced, and potentially signifcant, information about a particular communication than its "content."

Okay. So maybe you're not worried about what your videogame and printer may be revealing about you. But everyone should be worried about living in a world filled with innocuous-seeming devices that enable unprecedented, pervasive, routine surveillance. Lee Tien says it best: "[Printer surveillance] shows how the government and private industry make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by compromising everyday equipment like printers. The logical next question is: what other deals have been or are being made to ensure that our technology rats on us?"

Update: Jonathan Zittrain @ TechNewsWorld: "Counterfeiting is a serious problem, and there ought to be some way to prevent its undue exacerbation through color printing technologies without compromising the anonymity of every single document the printer might ever be asked to print."

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Privacy


COMMENTS

1. Tom Poe on October 17, 2005 5:28 PM writes...

How else do you expect us to capture Osama Bin Laden? Put RFID in all the food, so the feds can track where we s$%&*?

Permalink to Comment

2. Dave from the Lake Effect Zone on October 18, 2005 6:32 PM writes...

Next thing you know, they'll want to put taggants in ball point pen ink.

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