The Kinkos Conspiracy

Engadget raised my fears a bit when they announced your laser printer will give you away:

It was big news last month when a couple of researchers at Purdue announced a way to trace documents back to their original printer or photocopier, but it turns out that Xerox and most other laser printer and copier makers have been selling devices that encode serial numbers and manufacturing codes on everything they print out for years. They’ve been doing it at the behest of the US government, which uses it as a tool to fight counterfeiting, and there’s no way to disable or get around it.

Engadget links to a PCWorld article that tells us there’s hidden, traceable data in every page printed.

Lorelei Pagano, a counterfeiting specialist with the U.S. Secret Service, stresses that the government uses the embedded serial numbers only when alerted to a forgery. “The only time any information is gained from these documents is purely in [the case of] a criminal act,” she says.

I’m not sure how I feel about their advice, however:

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.

I think it’s the government’s plan to make people who are concerned about their privacy and civil rights look like kooks. What are we supposed to think of the scraggly-haired fellow lurking in Kinkos, inspecting documents with a blue light?

Still what else are we to do when PCWorld gets quotes like this?

…Xerox and the government have a good relationship. “The U.S. government had been on board all along — they would actually come out to our labs,” Crean says.

“The industry absolutely has been extraordinarily helpful [to law enforcement],” Pagano says.

Maybe it’s time I finally read Database Nation?

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