Accuracy in Media

Privacy advocates are in an uproar over the discovery that computer laser printers from the major manufacturers are embedding a secret code or watermark on the printed pages of their owners. The code which the manufacturers agreed to voluntarily install at the request of the Secret Service can only been seen with the help of a blue light. You know the device that they always use on CSI when investigating a crime scene.

Is this a big deal? If you are the Electronic Frontier Foundation it is. They see this as another example of American’s eroding anonymity and their growing distrust of our government. EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien said ” It shows how the government and private industry make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by compromising everyday equipment like printers.” Tien is also wondering what other technology may be “ratting” on us. The increasing sophistication of color computer laser printers has led the government to redesign our currency and led to increasing efforts by companies to fight counterfeit tickets. Just last month the San Diego Tribune reported that Orlando police confiscated over $250,000 in fake theme park tickets from one individual. Figures on losses attributed to counterfeiting are hard to come by as most businesses don’t want to admit they have been victimized or to remind crooks how easy it is duplicate tickets of just about any type.

Now that the EFF has cracked the code and posted it on their web site I am sure there will be thousands, maybe even millions of people doing all they can to disable this feature on their printers. I don’t have a problem with that. I am concerned however that this will enable criminals and the criminally minded to make the necessary alterations to continue on their merry way.

Since 9/11 Americans have been asked to sacrifice some privacy for the opportunity to live in a safer and more secure world. Despite these sacrifices we still live in the freest country in the world. Remember Freedom is not Free.




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