Monday, July 16, 2007

Tiny Yellow Dots Create Privacy Firestorm

There's a new brouhaha over the embedding of yellow dots in prints by certain color printers. It's not a new thing--having worked in the printer industry for a few years, I can say that this has been going on for some time, ever since color printing technology advanced to the point where it was possible to print passable currency. In a similar vein, some color copiers (particularly high-end units) will shut down if a user attempts to copy currency.

Personally, I don't see this as any sort of real privacy violation (which, along with the right to steal intellectual property, seems to be the only thing some people really care about). In spite of people's hatred of Bush, and the rampant conspiracy theories that surround him, I don't really believe that the checks and balances that have kept us relatively secure from oppression have entirely disappeared.

I see this as a viable method to provide evidence of wrongdoing, where technology has passed by other forms of evidence. Once, pages typed with old-style typewriters could be traced by the minute differences in how a given typewriter made each keystroke. Hasn't anyone ever watched a suspense movie where the ransom note was made from newspaper clippings? With laser and inkjet printing, that method of investigation is no longer available.

Finally, there are a thousand ways for government to trace you. While I don't trust my government completely, or in some ways at all, I don't really believe that it's out to get me.

And about the Secret Service visiting the guy who called his printer company to ask how to turn off the dots? Doesn't that sound like the Secret Service was just doing its job?

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