Electronic Frontier Foundation Takes Action Against Spying Printers

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation has revealed which printer manufacturers have complied with the US Secret Service to encode pages with identifying information. It will also take the next step to finding out what spying printers are revealing.

Last week the EFF announced it would able to break a code hidden in tiny tracking dots that some colour laser printers secrete in every document they print. The US Secret Service admitted to having struck a deal with some laser printer manufacturers to add tracking information to the printed matter. The “spooks” claiming it’s a means of identifying counterfeiters.

However, the nature of the private information encoded in each document was not previously known.

The manufacturer with some printer models identified with spy dots include; Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson Aculaser, Konika/Minolta, Kyocera, Lanier, Ricoh, Savin, Tektronix and Xerox. A comprehensive list detailing the model number can be found at the EFF site.

However there are no laws to stop the Secret Service from using printer codes to secretly trace the origin of non-currency documents; only the privacy policy of a printer manufacturer currently protects users. No law regulates what sort of documents the Secret Service or any other domestic or foreign government agency is permitted to request for identification, not to mention how such a forensics tool could be developed and implemented in printers in the first place.

Although the American Civil Liberties recently issued a report revealing what the FBI has amassed against organisations, as well as documenting non-violent groups including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice. The EFT is also gathering information about what printers are revealing and how. It has also filed a ‘Freedom of Information Act Request.

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