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Laser Printers Leave Secret Fingerprints

From PC World :

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.

Geek News has more discussion on the topic. The assumption that this was done solely at the behest of the US Government appears to be misplaced, European countries have been in on the action (PC World - DM Europe)

As potentially creepy as it is to have these tiny identifying codes in printers (scanners have had them for a long time), Wizbang regular Jim Kouri notes in an article on drug traffickers and organized crime:

Advanced design, copying and publishing technology is enhancing the capability of international criminals to produce high-quality counterfeit U.S. currency and financial instruments. For example, the percentage of counterfeit U.S. currency passed in the United States that was produced using inkjet color copiers has jumped from 0.5% in 1995 to 39% so far in fiscal year 1998.
The researchers quoted in this PC World story have determined that subtle manufacturing imperfections in cheap inkjet printers make it possible to fingerprint those devices as well - though not to the same degree as the lasers...


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» Read My Lips linked with Dec. 6, 2004

Comments (7)

Genius, sheer genius!! :-)... (Below threshold)
Omni:

Genius, sheer genius!! :-)

This tracking method on pri... (Below threshold)
-S-:

This tracking method on printed paperwork does not bother me, just not at all. Like a network card in a harddrive, these methods identify sources and creation points, dates and can therefore also identify actual users assigned to those creation points, so I don't have a problem with this process as it's described here, of tracking printed documents to a source by way of an imprint.

Most people want credit for their work, yes? This does pose a problem to "anonymous," however, and I can understand why. There are always shredders for documents that no one wants anyone else to read, to analyze.

In other technology news, t... (Below threshold)
See, Big Brother _IS_ watch... (Below threshold)

See, Big Brother _IS_ watching us!

Shocking news, as the Abile... (Below threshold)

Shocking news, as the Abilene Kinkos has just BURNED ITSELF TO THE GOUND.

Old news....Laser ... (Below threshold)
tmac:

Old news....

Laser Printers have had this capability for years. Many companies such as HP implimented it to guard against money forgers.

That's nothing. There was a... (Below threshold)

That's nothing. There was a newsrelease on PR newswire the other day about a company that has released a new version of RFID ink. The ink actually acts as a transmitter!




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