We've known that our printers are spying on us, ever since the Electronic Frontier Foundation cracked the secret codes in the output of color laser printers. These hidden codes -- apparently placed at the behest of the Secret Service -- identify the serial number, make and model of the printer that printed them, as well as a date and timestamp.
What we didn't know is that if you ask the manufacturer of your printer to stop spying on you, they respond by ratting you out to the Secret Service as a dangerous subversive, and a few days later, the SS will show up and ask you why you care about your privacy.
Seeing Yellow -- a project from the MIT Media Lab -- wants to put a stop to this by overwhelming the manufacturers with complaints from their customers, so many that they can't turn us all into the SS.
When you print on a color laser printer, it's likely that you are also printing a pattern of invisible yellow dots. These marks exist to allow the printer companies and governments to track and identify you -- presumably as a way to combat money counterfeiting. When one person asked his printer manufacturer about turning off the tracking dots, Secret Service agents showed up at his door several days later.
Upset? You should be!
Let's stand up to silent tracking and government bullying and send a strong message to printer manufacturers. Our privacy and our control over our own technology is far too important to give up over trumped up fears of photocopied money.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.