Thanks for Helping Us Track You
If you have purchased a new printer in the last few years, be it laser or inkjet, chances are good that every time you print out a document, a barely-detectable identification code is being included on the page. Usually a series of yellow dots forms a symbol similar to the 2-D digital bar code seen on many products (even burned into very small surface mount devices like metal VCO lids). This code tells investigators the serial number of the printer that created the document. There is no notice to the buyer or user that such a scheme has been implemented, so the Big Brother watchdog groups are up in arms about it. One recent news story tells of a document created on a Canon printer being traced back by Dutch police to pursue a gang of counterfeit ticket producers. Canon says it is only trying to protect its customers by providing a means to recover stolen property. Skeptics believe governments are strong-arming the companies into cooperation. As with many high tech coding and tracking schemes, the systems can be used for good or evil, but most fear tends to be born out of ignorance. Many people believe RFID tags in grocery store packages and garment tags will result in their every move being tracked by the government. Some think the magnetic strips on credit cards set off detector networks around the world to track their movement. So, now a whole new group of fellow citizens can lay awake nights worrying about whether their political flyers that they obnoxiously put on our car windshields can be traced back to them; is that a bad thing?