Is Your Printer Spying On You?
Imagine that every time you printed a document it automatically included a secret code that could be used to identify the printer - and potentially the person who used it. Sounds like something from an episode of "Alias " right?
Unfortunately the scenario isn't fictional. In a purported effort to identify counterfeiters the US government has succeeded in persuading some color laser printer manufacturers to encode each page with identifying information. That means that without your knowledge or consent an act you assume is private could become public. A communication tool you're using in everyday life could become a tool for government surveillance. And what's worse there are no laws to prevent abuse.
The ACLU recently issued a report revealing that the FBI has amassed more than 1 100 pages of documents on the organization since 2001 as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice. In the current political climate it's not hard to imagine the government using the ability to determine who may have printed what document for purposes other than identifying counterfeiters.
With no laws on the books there's nothing to stop the privacy violations this technology enables. For this reason EFF is gathering information about what printers are revealing and how - a necessary precursor to any legal challenge or new legislation to protect your privacy.