Do you own or use a color laser printer? If you do, chances are that there is a secret code printed on each page you send out. According to the TG Daily:
For the better part of the last year, computer experts have known about the existence of printer tracking technology. Last November, PC World published the article, Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents, which discussed the existence of printer tracking dots. Seth Schoen, staff technologist at the EFF, told us that the PC World article spurred EFF to investigate further. Initially Schoen, like PC World, speculated that the dots would only contain the printer’s serial and model number, but now it is confirmed that there is much more information included. “As it turned out, there is also the date and time, which is accurate to the minute. We didn’t expect that,” says Shoen.
Schoen says that these tracking dots are “all over” every page printed from many printer models. The dots are almost invisible, but can be seen by shining a simple blue LED light on the page. The blue light increases the contrast of the yellow dots and causes them to appear black against the paper background. In the case of one particular printer, the Xerox DocuColor, the dots appear as an eight by fifteen grid that is repeated throughout the page.
You can see the dots on color prints from machines made by Xerox, Canon, and other manufacturers (for a list of the printers we investigated so far, see: http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/list.php). The dots are yellow, less than one millimeter in diameter, and are typically repeated over each page of a document. In order to see the pattern, you need a blue light, a magnifying glass, or a microscope (for instructions on how to see the dots, see: http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/docucolor/).
I’ve got a printer which I use primarily for high quality and high volume political printing runs. Odds are that many readers of this site have recieved material printed on it, as I lugged the heavy beast to Austin, TX during the Badnarik campaign. Tens of thousands of pages from the printer were also distributed at the LP Convention in Atlanta. One poster I distributed at the convention was covered nationally by an AP Wire here. In this case, a woman was booted out of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport for passing out anti-war flyers.
It pretty scary that big brother can track the printers of political materials. Imagine the Brits going after the pamphleteers in the years preceding our Revolutionary War. However, in my case, they were not likely to have been able to track the documents I printed, as my printer does not appear on the list of printers known contain the embedded code. I am using a Tektronix Phaser 850DP, which uses thermal wax, as opposed to a laser process. It is my guess that the thermal process makes it more diffficult to hide the code.
Perhaps former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said it best with: “We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government. The aggressive breaches of privacy by the Government increase by geometric proportions.”
Update by Stephen VanDyke: Contrast this to the 1765 Stamp Act:
The Stamp Act 1765 was the fourth Stamp Act to be passed by the British Parliament and required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. The Act was enacted in order to defray the cost of maintaining the military presence protecting the colonies.
It was of course met with great resistance, with many tax collectors being harassed and tarred and feathered. The similarity of requiring a digital stamp nowadays, with the tax built into the cost of the printer, is none too appealing either.