Tiny Microscopic Printer Dots Destroy Laser Printer Anonymity

Posted on July 26, 2008

Here's something else to worry about if you value your privacy. Tiny microscopic dots printed by laser printers could be traced back to your specific printer reports USA Today.

More manufacturers are outfitting greater numbers of laser printers with technology that leaves microscopic yellow dots on each printed page to identify the printer's serial number - and ultimately, you, says the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the leading watchdogs of electronic privacy.

The technology has been around for years, but the declining price of laser printers and the increasing number of models with this feature is causing renewed concerns.

The dots, invisible to the naked eye, can be seen using a blue LED light and are used by authorities such as the Secret Service to investigate counterfeit bills made with laser printers, says Lorelei Pagano, director of the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group.

Privacy advocates worry that the little-known technology could ensnare political dissidents, whistle-blowers or anyone who prints materials that authorities want to track.

The article says laser printers are still only used by a small percentage of the population but the number is climbing quickly as the cost of a laser printer falls. Better print your secret documents on a dot-matrix printer if you want to remain anonymous.

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