Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Digg This -- Tiny Yellow Dots

Getting back from vacation and digging out reminded me of a reader's input about an article that appeared in USA Today a few weeks back. In "Printer dots raise privacy concerns" writer Thomas Frank reports on the inclusion by manufacturers of automatic printing of microscopic yellow dots as part of the color laser printing process, coded to indicate the model and serial number of the printer in question.

This decades-old idea, implemented on some of the original color copiers, was designed to thwart currency counterfeiting, but is seen by some as a potential invasion of privacy.

"There's nothing about this technology that limits its application to counterfeit investigations," says Seth Schoen, a computer programmer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Some people who aren't doing anything wrong may have their privacy threatened." Schoen's tests have found the dots produced by 111 color laser printers made by 13 companies including Xerox (NYSE XRX), Canon, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE HPQ), Epson and Brother.

The article quotes Angele Boyd of IDC Research, on the growth in the color laser printer category, whose prices have "dropped to as low as $300". Actually, they've dropped to much lower than that, at least on a good day! (See "The $100 color laser printer.")

And speaking of "digging out", this article came to my attention via a reader who was impressed with the "Digg" performance of the piece -- it was apparently the #1 atricle for the day it came out, and is currently at over 1,000 Diggs (see graphic). For those seeking some rather off-the-wall printer-related articles, btw, visit and search on "printer".

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