Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Your Printer, Tool of the Man

The EFF has done some great work on how high resolution color printers are embedding tracers in every document they print. It’s at “DocuColor Tracking Dot Decoding Guide.” I’d call them high quality printers, but how could I? They intentionally distort every document they print on the off-chance it contains evidence of thoughtcrime.

The work was done by Robert Lee, Seth Schoen, Patrick Murphy, Joel Alwen, and Andrew “bunnie” Huang. Also, Hack-a-day has some good links in their story.

I’d really prefer not to live in a world which is built on the assumption that everyone is a criminal, and that we need to deploy tracking technologies to catch those dastardly people before they, umm, print again.

I was having trouble finding a concise way to say this, but Alex Tabarrok nails it in his post entitled “Goodbye Samizdat.”

3 comments on "Your Printer, Tool of the Man"

  • Anonymous says:

    So where is the guidance on resetting the date and serial number in your printer ?

  • Your Printer, Tool of the Man

    [Source: Emergent Chaos: The Emergent Chaos Jazz Combo of the Blogosphere] quoted: (Posted by Adam) The EFF has done some great work on how high resolution color printers are embedding tracers in every document…

  • John Kelsey says:

    The interesting thing is that the printer manufacturer and national chain store from which you probably bought that printer may well have kept all kinds of tracking of that serial number. If you got an extended maintenance plan, you almost certainly had to enter that serial number.
    So, when you find a printed document, it’s not just that you can confirm the document’s origin when you already suspect it, it’s likely the case that you can either directly determine its owner’s name, address, and phone number, or that you can at least track down the store from which the printer was sold and the date it was sold.
    Now that this is coming out into the open, we’ll probably all be able to do this. I wonder if there are similar mechanisms in scanners (so that the electronic image is stegoed with a serial number) and in audio and video recording software (so that some movie studio can come take away your house if you sell copies of one of their DVDs). I wonder if programs like Acrobat embed a serial number….
    I wish I had any faith that this would make enough people mad to cause some change on the part of the printer manufacturers. But it won’t, of course. After all, it’s only going to be used against bad guys, and you have our word on that. Honest!

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