Seriously? Yellow dots? I guess I’m late to the party, but I just discovered that the tin foil milliners at the EFF have some pretty good reason to believe that certain color laser printers are leaving secret identifying marks on your documents. Encoded in subtle yellow dots it seems. Here’s one decoded.

The EFF seems a bit surprised that these companies would voluntarily cooperate with Big Brother in this way. I would only have been surprised if the spooks had asked the printer companies to use less ( absurdly expensive) ink.

Now that we know of this technology, what can we users do with it?

  1. I’m interested in temporal attestation, that is producing some intellectual work (poem, idea, software, etc) and having it be clear to others that the work was extant on or before a certain date. (If you need proof of something happening after a certain date, for example that your hostage hasn’t already been killed, the solution is well established.)

  2. Of course this naturally leads us to pranking Big Brother. If you’re, say, a Berkeley math professor and can decode the dots, you can synthesize them yourself and have some larks. Or if you’re rich hire someone like that and "prove" that you didn’t commit insider trading, etc.

  3. Which of course leads us to the most realistic use for these dots - framing someone. I think it’s interesting to consider the that the people most capable of doing this are certainly the ones who instigated this technology in the first place. Good luck in FISA court!

I remember being pretty excited to get my Gemini-10X printer in 1983. But it didn’t take long to realize that hard copies were almost always superfluous for someone like me. Add yellow dots to the long list of reasons to minimize printer usage.

UPDATE 2017-06-22: Yellow dots in action. How the NSA found a leaker.