Onece upon a time we reported a discovery of mysterious dot markings found on pages printed with color leaser printer.
A European Union commissioner issued an official statement about the legality of printer tracking dot systems last month in response to a query from a member of the European Parliament. The commissioner states that no laws presently address the issue, but notes that it could possibly constitute a violation of the right to privacy guaranteed by the European Union’s Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Privacy advocates have been aware for years that many color printers and photocopiers sold in the United States use patterns of nearly-invisible yellow dots to encode identifying information about the originating printer in every printed page. Although few details are available regarding the ultimate function of the watermark or the manner in which the information is used, it is generally characterized as a means through which law enforcement agencies can identify counterfeiters. There is no way to know, however, whether the government’s use of the watermarks extends beyond that function.
The watermark could easily be used by the government to perform identification without any kind of judicial oversight. Some believe that the information could be potentially be used to identify and harass political dissidents. Critics argue that the system threatens to undermine the practice of anonymous pamphleteering—a time-honored vehicle for political dissent that has been used in America since before the Revolutionary War.
“The Commission is not aware of any specific laws either at national or at Community level governing tracking mechanisms in colour laser printers and photocopiers,” wrote Commissioner Franco Frattini in an official statement. “To the extent that individuals may be identified through material printed or copied using certain equipment, such processing may give rise to the violation of fundamental human rights, namely the right to privacy and private life. It also might violate the right to protection of personal data.”
In the United States, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is leading a campaign to increase awareness of potential abuses associated with the watermarking. The organization hopes to eventually amass enough information about it to be able to challenge the practice in court. If the European Union decides to pursue the matter itself, it could potentially pressure U.S. printer manufacturers into providing more specific details that illuminate the extent to which watermarking threatens individual privacy.
via Ars Technica