LaserJet Printers – Just Can’t Keep a Secret.

Laser printers sure have come down in price, making the technology available to just about anybody for personal use.

But laser printers have some “features” that probably are not explained about in the users manual. In fact, not even mentioned at all and few people are aware of their existence.

Whenever you print something on a page, that laser printer also takes it upon itself to put a message on the sheet of paper.

A secret message that consists of yellow dots so small that they are invisible without magnification and special blue lighting.

Here’s an example…


Seems completely blank, doesn’t it…

Now let’s look at the same piece of paper but with magnification of 60 times. Can you see the faint yellow dots on the paper? They would be really easy to overlook.


60x magnification

It would be really easy to still think that it was just some flaw of the paper that you used or perhaps the occasional fiber out of place. So let’s look at the printed paper again but with a special blue light with slight magnification.


Blue light illumination and magnification

Now for clarity, let’s put a big yellow dot where any of those tiny dots are shown by the blue light illumination.


Yellow dots put into picture to show where microdots are placed

Remember, the area of yellow dots are so small and blended in to the white background so well that they are completely invisible. You would need the technical know how to even begin to look for them, much less find them.

So what is it? Well, it’s a coded message and all printer manufacturers have been putting these coded messages on their printer paper for quite a while at the request of the government.


Information decoded for this particular laser jet printer

They were discovered and publicized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. A organization that I highly recommend readers learn about and support.

In this new world of technology and computer information, they’re the group needed with the necessary technical knowledge to oversee and fight the abuses.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Posted by on February 11, 2011. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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12 Responses to LaserJet Printers – Just Can’t Keep a Secret.

  1. jenny40 Reply

    February 11, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I was intrigued by this. Some stuff we don’t bother to think about and this is one of them. I wish I knew why Laser Printers were better than Ink Jet and if Ink Jet had the same type of obvious dangers?

    • greenlight Reply

      February 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      I’m not sure how much of a danger this is, but it did make for a fascinating read–thanks, Krell!

      I can speak to the benefits of a laser printer, at least “according to GL.”

      The ink jet printers I’ve seen–granted maybe they’ve improved since then–printed about a page an hour, ran out of ink every half page, and wouldn’t print without all colors stocked, with ink costing a small fortune.

      Okay, maybe I exaggerate.

      The laser printer I have does double-sided printing, 22 pages a minute, and one toner covers 2,500 pages or more (no exaggeration).

      Not a big deal for those who use their printer for the occasional directions or sheet of coupons, but a significantly bigger deal for those who routinely print research articles that are 20 pages or longer, as well as drafts of their own work that run from 50-100 pages.

      I love my laser printer. 🙂

      • Krell Reply

        February 11, 2011 at 8:38 pm

        I just think that it’s fascinating stuff! The fact that it’s been there for years now, in the background like some undiscovered “Easter egg” that you find while clicking your remote on a movie.

        As to danger, I don’t think there really is for the people using them at home for printing birthday invitations. Your name and information is probably given out freely when you fill out the warranty card.

        But if your a person that’s printing out flyers trying to organize a Union and a company needs to find out who’s printing those damn flyers … it might be a problem.
        Or maybe a person in a different country that’s trying to get his “viva la revolution” on…. he probably wants to remain anonymous.

        • greenlight Reply

          February 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm

          I did think of that, given that I recently watched a movie on the underground efforts to subvert Nazism in which the “offenders” had printed flyers…granted, they got caught without laser technology. On the flip side, the hidden data could also be used in legitimate (apolitical) criminal investigations, for the better. Either way, fascinating stuff indeed! I never would have guessed.

          Thanks for the post.

          • Krell Reply

            February 12, 2011 at 2:00 am

            Very good point. It could be a tool to capture a crook or perhaps a counterfeiter. The printers have gotten so good that I think they have been used for printing money.

            I suppose that like everything else in this new technology world, it’s a double edged sword.

  2. Gwendolyn H. Barry Reply

    February 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    you can tell me… you’re really a spook, r’nt you Krell? What field office ya workin’ out of? LOL the details you bring to light!

    (ps__ “spook” refers to undercover agent for intelligence)

    • Mother Hen Reply

      February 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

      You know if it ever came to light that he really was, I wouldn’t be surprised. If so, though, he might try harder to appear normal.

      • Krell Reply

        February 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm

        Mother Hen, are you implying that I may act in bizarre ways??

        You, a person that yells out “That would be a good place to hide in the zombie apocalypse! Look there’s another!” as we are driving along on the highway?

        • Mother Hen Reply

          February 12, 2011 at 7:33 am

          Not bizarre, but a real spy would try to be under the radar and not be publishing stuff like this (and half the rest of your stories).

          And one can NEVER be too prepared for the zombie apocalypse!

    • Krell Reply

      February 11, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      Shaken not stirred, Gwen.

  3. John Myste Reply

    February 11, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Krell,

    What Greenligt said.

    Gwen, thanks for the clarification. My wife detests the term “spook.”

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