Seeing Yellow

You probably didn’t realize that many color laser printers embed tiny yellow dots on each printed page. These tiny yellow dots amount to a “serial number” for each printer. Why would a printer manufacturer embed such a tracking system without the purchasers knowledge?

Seeing Yellow is the brainchild of MIT’s Computing Culture research group, which “want to preserve the right to anonymous communication by fighting both printing dots and the government bullying used to sustain them.” The project was conceived after the team received word that an anonymous hacker had called his printer manufacturer to complain and was subsequently visited by the Secret Service, who were curious to know why someone with nothing to hide would want to disable the tracking dots.

Like us, many people dislike the idea of tracking information embedded in every color document they print. Several people have called up their printers’ manufacturers to complain and to ask how they might turn off the tracking information. At least one person (who wishes to remain anonymous) was subsequently paid a visit by the United States Secret Service who asked him a series of questions about why he wanted to turn off the dots.

There is no law that requires printer manufacturers to include these dots. Several color printers do not seem to include them at all! There is nothing suspicious or criminal about wanting to privately or anonymously produce color documents. In fact, the ability to speak anonymously is an essential part of our democracy! We have every right to demand color laser printers without this “feature.” We have every right to demand that our printer manufacturers to fix their devices. We shouldn’t need to choose between our privacy and color print outs.

Seeing Yellow includes instructions on how to contact your printer manufacturer for more information.

The lists of printers on this page come from the EFF’s list of printers that print tracking dots.

(Via Ars Technica.)

More on the EFF

Study: P2P effect on legal music sales “not statistically distinguishable from zero”

According to an article by Ken Fisher over at Ars Technica, “A new study in the Journal of Political Economy by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf has found that illegal music downloads have had no noticeable effects on the sale of music, contrary to the claims of the recording industry.”

The study compared the logs of two OpenNAP P2P servers with sales data from Nielsen SoundScan, tracking the effects of 1.75 million songs downloads on 680 different albums sold during that same period. The study then took a surprising twist.

“Using detailed records of transfers of digital music files, we find that file sharing has had no statistically significant effect on purchases of the average album in our sample,” the study reports. “Even our most negative point estimate implies that a one-standard-deviation increase in file sharing reduces an album’s weekly sales by a mere 368 copies, an effect that is too small to be statistically distinguishable from zero.”

The study reports that 803 million CDs were sold in 2002, which was a decrease of about 80 million from the previous year. The RIAA has blamed the majority of the decrease on piracy, and has maintained that argument in recent years as music sales have faltered. Yet according to the study, the impact from file sharing could not have been more than 6 million albums total in 2002, leaving 74 million unsold CDs without an excuse for sitting on shelves.

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