The Electric Commentary

Friday, October 21, 2005

More on the Secret Xerox Code Scandal

From the Coyote Blog:

Is there anyone out there that thinks that this won't be used to trace a leak, track down a whistle-blower, or identify an anonymous political critic? And, even if you are able to conjure up trust that the US government will not use these codes for anything other than fighting counterfeiting, what about use of these codes by private parties? Or, even more depressing, remember that these printers are being sold today in China, Syria, Iran, Zimbabwe, etc. Does anyone at all doubt that these governments will use the print codes to identify and silence dissent?


  • Track down a leak? I hope it is used to track down a security leak.

    Track down a whistle blower? By the same government that rewards whistleblowers with millions of dollars?

    What if private parties use it? OMG! One company producing something there is a demand for and selling it to another company! The absolute horror, they shouldn't be allowed to do that if somebody somewhere doesn't want them to. Is Mr. Coyote and friends willing to pay the company enough to make it worthwile for that company not to produce the yellow dot makers? What is he worried about, that private companies may track the use of their resources, or that they want to be alerted by police if their resources are being used to counterfeit? Is this any worse than a nanny cam or a sign out sheet for batteries that are only supposed to be used when using digital cameras to document insurance claims?

    Other goverments using it for evil? Very real possibility. Of course, what do we think other governments are doing with other stuff we sell them, like weapons? Besides, besides for the T.V. shows Baywatch and Highlander, other governments can always use stuff we give them for evil, be it grain, steel, timber, military training, or cars.

    track down a political critic and do what? Arrest him for his speech? They need more than yellow dots for that. Ruin him by airing his dirty laundry? Possible, I admit. But that also allows for tracking down dishonest political rivals, who have something to hide or are making forgeries.

    By Anonymous Phil, at 3:55 PM  

  • As I said, it should have been disclosed. If some car dealer sells you a car, and they put a government issue GPS locator in their without telling you, that doesn't piss you off? What if they start sending you speeding tickets?

    What's the difference here?

    No private party payed for this technology. I'm guessing that many/most companies have printed millions of documents under the assumption that this technology was not on their computers. People sometimes have to print sensitive documents. Lawyers, for instance.

    Trespass to chatels? Theft of trade secrets? Violation of the fourth amendment?

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:06 PM  

  • Ooh, I feel so violated that I'm going to sit in the shower crying about how violated I feel (with my documents so I can try to scrub all of the little invisible dots off).

    Perhaps I'm just not a criminal mastermind, but really, other than counterfeiting, the few gov't whistleblowers, and anonymous leafletting, I don't see a lot of situations where this technology really be effectively used. For the most part, if the gov't has photocopies of documents, it knows where it got them from. Even for whistleblowers there is pretty limited access to confidential files, so the gov't already has a pretty good idea where it came from. Also, Phil's secrecy excuses make sense.

    Of course, it is a very good idea for the EFF and others to keep an eye on gov't, but I'm just not too outraged about this one.

    By Anonymous Scott, at 4:43 PM  

  • BTW, I believe there may be some case law on car rental companies using GPS locators to charge extra for speeding and leaving pre-set boundaries. (I think the rules were in the fine print, but not notification of the GPS.)

    By Anonymous Scott, at 4:47 PM  

  • You guys sure have a lot of faith. Marginal Rev made the best argument:

    Would the Berlin Wall have fallen if East European governments had access to this kind of technology twenty years ago?

    That being said, there are still many people in the same situation as those stuck in the Eastern Bloc during the cold war. This is not a good thing.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:56 PM  

  • GPS in a car would suck, but if car companies did it, it would still be legal, so far as I can tell, and it would likely save lives. The difference is it would suck more with cars than with printers.

    Trespass to chattel? huh? Because there are invisible dots on your property? Maybe, but what about secret ingriedients and computer software that does whatever it does wherever on your computer it does it? Besides, what are damages for something you never knew existed?

    Private companies could have paid for it, but my point was in response to Coyote's fears about what private entities could do with it.

    Trade secrets? I don't understand this one. The printers aren't spying and reporting through the yellow dots. Maybe if it says what time and what location something is printed out, though, so that is a good point.

    senstive info? Yes, but its not the dots, its the words that say: "I hope nobody knows that we are breaking the law at this here company" or "your pin is 1234"

    4th amendment. Hmmm, maybe. But I think it is like the DNA we are leaving everywhere we go, once you abandon it, you can't expect it to be private.

    c'mon, eastern europe governments didn't fail because they lacked sweet spy tech, they failed because they sucked and didn't have enough sticktoitofness and becaus Russia's 70 or 120 or however many starving divisions were no match for our 16 or 20 kick-ass divisions. Besides, they had better ways of catching dissidents, like having kids rat on their parents, executions, torture, butt-scent collections, etc.

    By Anonymous Phil, at 6:10 PM  

  • Uh, I actually think I read something about how soon GM is going to put OnStar in all of their cars and give people a free subscription for a year to see if they bite on it long term, so standard GPS in cars is here.

    I agree that if you can get a hold of the sheet, then I don't see how the trade secrets or confidential information is safe just because there are not little yellow dots on it. Confidential stuff should be shredded if you want it to stay secret. I guess if the gov't raided your files without a warrant then you'd be at risk, but the content of the documents is what matters. This is why I would like to distinguish myself from the DNA comment by Phil. That actually does reveal private information. I think HHS agents following people around to collect lost hairs so they can test for genetic diseases and inform insurance companies would be bad. Yes, you can ask how I draw this line, but there is a long distance between when & where a document was copied and the information that document or DNA contains. I mean if the photocopiers were faxing copies of the documents to the NSA where a supercomputer scanned them for content, then I'd be concerned.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 6:00 PM  

  • The difference with an OnStar system and the yellow dots is that I know an OnStar system is in my car, and I don't know the dots are there.

    By Blogger Mike, at 2:56 PM  

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