WATPA: Fw: [TECHNOLOGY] Why Government-Sponsored Printer Identification Raises Serious Privacy Concerns

From: Jeanne Betsock Stillman <jbs@stratdev.com>
Date: Wed Dec 07 2005 - 20:32:35 EST

I'm passing on an article that I found astounding. Were others unaware of


----- Original Message -----
From: "Donald A. Griesmann" <Dgriesmann@AOL.COM>
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 7:52 PM
Subject: [TECHNOLOGY] Why Government-Sponsored Printer Identification Raises
Serious Privacy Concerns

> Hi
> This article from FindLaw, Modern Practice Feature, is worth reading in
> full -
> Printers and Privacy: Why Government-Sponsored Printer Identification
> Serious Privacy Concerns
> By Anita Ramasastry
> December 2005
> In _my last column_
(http://writ.news.findlaw.com/ramasastry/20051110.html) ,
> I explained how the government now might be able to track us by using
> generated by our cell phones. In this column, I will discuss another
method of
> tracking - one that has been around far longer, but has gotten little
> publicity until recently.
> This longstanding tracking method - which I will call "printer
> identification" -- may be just as dangerous to privacy as more newfangled
> Below, I discuss safeguards that can minimize privacy concerns.
> It is important to remember, moreover, that not only privacy, but also
> Amendment concerns play a role here: A large proportion of the papers that
> through our printers count as First Amendment-protected speech. And we
> to remember that, in a sense, laser printers are the modern form of the
> printing press.
> Printer Identification: Why It Exists and How It Works
> The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted in a report last month that
> certain model of Xerox color laser printer generates a tiny series of
dots -
> invisible to the naked eye -- on all printed pages. The source of the dots
> a chip embedded within the printer - one that, it seems, cannot be
> by the user without breaking the machine.
> Xerox is not alone: As a 2004 article in PC Magazine revealed, such
> identification has been in place in many manufacturers' (including
Canon's) color
> printers for nearly two decades, pursuant to a government-requested
> devised by the U.S. Secret Service.
> Nor is the U.S. alone; PC Magazine reported in a separate article that the
> Dutch government uses a similar identification system.
> With the right illumination and magnification - the EFF suggests "a blue
> light--say, from a key chain laser flashlight" and a magnifying glass,
> dots can be seen.
> Once decoded (and EFF offers free software that will do just that), the
> contain
> a unique serial number for the printer, and also indicate the time and
> of the printout.
> The serial number can then be matched up with the company's customer
> to identify the owner of the printer. Such identifying information exists
> because distributors often record the name of the purchaser, or a
purchaser may
> register his purchase as part of a warranty registration program. If you
> a printer with a credit or debit card (which is often the case), the
> distributor or sales agent will have a record of the purchase.
> The purpose of the program is to prevent counterfeiting. That's certainly
> worthy aim, and high-end color laser printers may be among counterfeiters'
> favorite tools.
> But the government can - and should - both pursue this aim, and protect
> privacy at the same time.
> Privacy and Free Speech Safeguards Are Essential
> When companies cooperate with law enforcement, they become agents of the
> state. The government should have told the public about this program when
> began.
> And now that the program has been revealed, it ought to more fully explain
> the extent to which printer tracking is used and for what purpose. Can any
> government agency access this information, for any reason - even when
> counterfeiting is plainly not an issue?
> Currently, no law restricts this information to counterfeiting
> alone. In practice, according to Xerox, the Secret Service has only
> requested information from the company when counterfeiting has been
suspected - but
> there is no guarantee that this will always be the case.
> And what about foreign governments? Can this information be shared with
> Imagine a foreign student studying in the U.S., who anonymously protests
> government's actions and tries to get attention for them here. Could the
> student be tracked down and punished when he returns home because the
> government provided his government with information allowing them to
> documents as having come from his printer?
> Finally, what about non-government entities? What if, for instance,
> want to employ the dots to aid the authentication of documents, or
> an evidentiary timeline?
> According to the EFF, there is also no law "regulating the distribution or
> reuse of information obtained through the use of marking technologies and
> customer databases. "
> <SNIP>
> For the full article see -
> _http://practice.findlaw.com/printers-1205.html_
> (http://practice.findlaw.com/printers-1205.html)
> For the Electronic Frontier Foundation see -
> _http://www.eff.org/_ (http://www.eff.org/)
> This for me raises concern about tax exemption and advocacy. Do you see
> other issues?
> Best,
> Don
> Donald A. Griesmann, Esq.
> Community Service Support Center, Inc.
> Ventnor NJ
> Don Griesmann's Grant Opportunities
> _http://charitychannel.com/enewsletters/dggo/_
> (http://charitychannel.com/enewsletters/dggo/)
Received on Wed Dec 7 20:20:18 2005

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