MIT Group Sees 'Yellow' Over Secret Service Involvement In Tracking Printed Documents - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Hardware & Infrastructure
02:07 PM

MIT Group Sees 'Yellow' Over Secret Service Involvement In Tracking Printed Documents

Most color printers place invisible yellow dots on documents, which law enforcement has used to bust counterfeiters, identify authors of ransom notes, and nab murderers.

Researchers at MIT are seeing red over the use of invisible yellow dots that printers embed in documents to help authorities track them to their source.

Most color printers today place invisible yellow dots on documents. The patterns help law enforcement groups figure out who printed a document. The practice has been used to bust counterfeiters, identify authors of ransom notes, and nab murderers.

MIT's Computing Culture Club has launched Seeing Yellow, a Web site dedicated to ending the practice, after discovering that someone had called their printer manufacturer for instructions on how to stop a printer from embedding the yellow dots and received a visit from Secret Service agents a few days later. The agents asked why the man did not want to be tracked, the group said in a statement posted on their Web site last week.

"Computing Culture wants to preserve the right to anonymous communication by fighting both printing dots and the government bullying used to sustain them," the group explained. "Our privacy and our control over our own technology is far too important to give up over trumped up fears of photocopied money."

The site states that the ability to speak anonymously is essential to a democracy. It gives details on printers that embed the dots (laser color printers), tips on how to spot them (using a bright blue LED and examining closely, possibly with a microscope), and urges people to contact their printer manufacturer with a series of questions and requests. It states that no law requires the companies to engage in the practice and recommends that people ask why the function is there and whether there are other covert tracking mechanisms.

"Ask them to stop using tracking codes and demand that they tell you how to turn it off," the group states. "The Secret Service can't come and question all of us!"

The site contains links to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's list of printers that create patterns the group has spotted.

Seeing Yellow reports that more than 1,000 people have called their printer manufacturers to complain.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Top 10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2021
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  11/13/2020
Where Cloud Spending Might Grow in 2021 and Post-Pandemic
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  11/19/2020
The Ever-Expanding List of C-Level Technology Positions
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  11/10/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Why Chatbots Are So Popular Right Now
In this IT Trend Report, you will learn more about why chatbots are gaining traction within businesses, particularly while a pandemic is impacting the world.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll