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Printer Privacy Your Rights Online

Secret Printer ID Codes May Be Illegal In the EU 229

Posted by kdawson
from the seeing-yellow dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "In response to a query from a member of the EU Parliament, an EU commissioner issued an official statement (.DOC) saying that, while they do not violate any laws, secret printer tracking dot codes may violate the human right to privacy guaranteed by the EU's Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. If you don't remember what these are, Slashdot has discussed the issue before. In short, most color printers print small yellow dots on every sheet in a code that identifies the printer and, potentially, its owner. The EFF is running an awareness campaign, and a couple of years back made a start on deciphering the yellow dot code."
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Secret Printer ID Codes May Be Illegal In the EU

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:51PM (#22435752)

    ... secret printer tracking dot codes may violate the human right to privacy guaranteed by the EU's Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
    I'm thinking that I would like to see a meeting between the EU's Convention of Human Rights & the EU's European Commission.

    First topic on the agenda: biometrics for visitors [slashdot.org].

    Or was privacy only guaranteed to European Citizens?
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:07PM (#22435986) Homepage Journal
    None of the printers that print the codes use any ink.

    They are all color laser printers. In my color laser [newegg.com] printer, even the "freebie" toner cartridges that came with the printer last for 1,500 pages, and then I replaced them after 2,000 pages with high-capacity cartridges that last for 4,500 pages each.

    Also, I am pretty sure all of them use 4 colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, so that your "order confirmation" printing would only use the color toner that was needed.
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:07PM (#22435990)
    I love the sound of that.

    however, in today's terror-terrorized (is that a new expression?) world, there IS no more 'right to privacy'.

    I wish there was! but even in europe, there really is not a right to privacy.

    even in the US constitution, is there ANY real clauses that talk about right to privacy? other than illegal search and seizure (which has been bastardized into 'we can invade your house and do a sneek-and-peek anytime we SAY so') - there is no right to privacy.

    it should be added as a fundamental right, but I don't expect it anytime soon. too much power is gotton by violating your privacy. power is addicting and so the gov won't ever give THAT one back. horse has long left the barn..

  • Nobody noticed... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Poodleboy (226682) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:33PM (#22436352)
    Doesn't anyone notice that the EU's "official statement" was released as a .DOC file? So, if I'm a citizen of the EU, I have to pay money to Microsoft to participate in my government?

    What's worse is that we're so inured to this sort of thing, nobody even noticed!

    Fenestrae delendae sunt.
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:35PM (#22436384) Journal
    How about, 5) don't get a color printer. Get a nice, crisp, inexpensive black laser or led printer. Do all your color printing at CVS on their glossy/matte photopaper. It's less costly per page just on consumables, at least if 200 pages @ 5% coverage for $29.98 means what I think it means.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:37PM (#22436412) Homepage Journal
    "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
    Benjamin Franklin
  • Re:Tag badsummary. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ddrichardson (869910) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:43PM (#22436492) Homepage

    The idea is to prevent someone from printing $100 bills/IDs/etc on their printer.

    Yes but that doesn't mean that it could not be used by, say an agency that wishes to monitor who is distributing political leaflets for example. Looking at the US from the outside, freedom of speech and the press are wonderful - it seems that your government is accessing more and more ways to check how you are using those freedoms.

  • by atchius (1233330) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:56PM (#22436676)
    License plates allow you to be identified driving a registered vehicle in public. It's mere convenience that keeps us from wanting to unscrew them every time we drive onto private property (e.g., a parking lot or driveway). The government is saying, "You drive on our roads, you follow our rules". Fair enough, right? It's the government requirement of these laser printer codes that's an invasion of privacy. Maybe a fair (albeit insane) requirement would be that any documents posted in public be encoded with the dots. What's that quote by Ben Franklin or David Hume or Richard Jackson or somebody? "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
  • Re:regardless... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:58PM (#22436704)

    Violating the spirit of human rights is one thing, ignoring an actual judgment by the European court of human rights is quite another.

    Yeah. You absolutely DO NOT want to get on the wrong side of the European Court of Human Rights. If they were upset enough they might write you a strongly worded letter. If you were foolish enough to ignore the strongly worded letter they might start to sulk or even hold their breath until they passed out. You wouldn't want them to sulk or pass out now would you? I didn't think so.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:09PM (#22436834)
    I'm thinking more that you can print single yellow dots and false serial codes. I assume the serial codes are repeated many times over the page but are in fixed locations.

    If they are only there once, you could remove them.

    If they are there once or multiple times, you can over print select dots and mess up the validity of the codes.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:14PM (#22436894) Homepage Journal
    I know you are (kind of) joking, but there is one small flaw with that idea:

    If your printer's serial # gets registered with the address on that tax return, and then you print some "illegal" stuff, it would come back to that person, but all they have to say is "I had ray-auch print my tax return", and then a single test-page from your printer would reveal that you printed both documents.

    But, if the police don't care that much, then yeah, your plan would work.

    At any rate, it would cause problems for the other person.
  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:18PM (#22436932) Homepage Journal
    Could be useful in other ways, if you could incriminate someone else's printer by printing the right code...
  • Re:NDA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:28PM (#22437074) Homepage
    Unless they're a socially conscious whistle-blower. Then they can talk about any goddamn thing they want.
  • wait a second... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nguy (1207026) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:29PM (#22437108)
    This is the same EU where there are cameras on every corner in the UK? The same EU where cameras track, record, and transmit license plate numbers to central servers nationwide in Germany? The same EU where you register where you live with the government? Where many personal records are available and shared by government offices?

    And they are concerned whether printed paper contains a code that is not even tied to a person but merely a print engine? Don't make me laugh.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:35PM (#22437190)
    It removes your ability to put up anonymous flyers and handbills.

    But I suppose you could silkscreen it after printing it.
  • by JonTurner (178845) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:55PM (#22437516) Journal
    Best suggestion yet.
    Yes, in theory adding random dots would introduce noise into the signal and potentially degrade it to the points it's no longer useful, but only if you can interfere with the pattern. Put another way, unless you know the location of the dot codes, to reach the level of noise necessary to obscure you'd have to cover the page; there would be so many random yellow dots so as to be perceptible.
  • by MoxFulder (159829) on Friday February 15, 2008 @03:16PM (#22437786) Homepage

    These defects are scattered among the surface of the CCD and are statistically unique from one camera to another, even among the same model. While the photos often aren't saved in raw formats, I'd wager if they find a picture of something illegal and wanted to prove your camera took the picture, it'd be trivial to take some pictures with it and match the output files' flaws even with the JPEG encoding by using a control camera of the same shot.

    Like how they do ballistic analysis by finding a suspect's gun and fire off a few rounds and compare with rounds found at the scene of a crime.
    Hey Applekid, that's a really interesting point... the pattern of hot/cold pixels on an image sensor is almost certainly unique to that camera.

    That, however, is not so troubling to me. Tying a "weapon" to a "crime" after the fact is a pretty standard and legitimate technique. What I'm more troubled by is the idea that camera makers would *pre-emptively* record a unique fingerprint of each camera, *in case* it ever gets used to do something illegal, or just to snoop and follow a trail of photographs on the web or elsewhere. I don't have any evidence of this being done, but since printer makers are doing this, and scanner makers are doing something similar (blocking scans of currency and official-looking documents), I wouldn't put it past camera/sensor manufacturers...
  • by bsims (895751) on Friday February 15, 2008 @04:38PM (#22439000)

    That, however, is not so troubling to me. Tying a "weapon" to a "crime" after the fact is a pretty standard and legitimate technique. What I'm more troubled by is the idea that camera makers would *pre-emptively* record a unique fingerprint of each camera, *in case* it ever gets used to do something illegal, or just to snoop and follow a trail of photographs on the web or elsewhere.

    And yet when laws were passed required doing exactly that to sell a legal product in California, it was lauded as a wonderful idea.

    But firearms don't count, I guess. I am glad in some ways that other's hobbies are now being treated with as much disdain as mine. Maybe in addition to the National Rifle Association we need the National Photography Association.

  • by Stanistani (808333) on Friday February 15, 2008 @06:16PM (#22440314) Homepage Journal
    Hey, I respect gun owners, but that's a spurious comparison.

    I can't pull out my Nikon and hold up a liquor store.

    Not unless the clerk is REALLY vain.

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