Imagine that every time you printed a document, it automatically included a secret code that could be used to identify the printer – and potentially, the person who used it. Sounds like something from an episode of “Alias,” right?

Unfortunately, the scenario isn’t fictional. In a purported effort to identify counterfeiters, the US government has succeeded in persuading some color laser printer manufacturers to encode each page with identifying information. That means that without your knowledge or consent, an act you assume is private could become public. A communication tool you’re using in everyday life could become a tool for government surveillance. And what’s worse, there are no laws to prevent abuse.

The ACLU recently issued a report revealing that the FBI has amassed more than 1,100 pages of documents on the organization since 2001, as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups, including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice. In the current political climate, it’s not hard to imagine the government using the ability to determine who may have printed what document for purposes other than identifying counterfeiters.

Yet there are no laws to stop the Secret Service from using printer codes to secretly trace the origin of non-currency documents; only the privacy policy of your printer manufacturer currently protects you (if indeed such a policy exists). And no law regulates what sort of documents the Secret Service or any other domestic or foreign government agency is permitted to request for identification, not to mention how such a forensics tool could be developed and implemented in printers in the first place.

With no laws on the books, there’s nothing to stop the privacy violations this technology enables. For this reason, EFF is gathering information about what printers are revealing and how – a necessary precursor to any legal challenge or new legislation to protect your privacy. And we could use your help.

In the preliminary research paper linked below, we explain what we’ve observed so far, briefly explore the privacy implications, and ask you to print and send us test sheets from your color laser printer and/or a color laser printer at your local print shop. That way, we can watch the watchers and ensure that your privacy isn’t compromised in ways that harm your fundamental consitutional rights.

In addition to documenting what printers are revealing, EFF has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and we will keep you updated on what we discover. In the meantime, we urge you to participate and pass the word along about this research project. Thank you for your support!

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New surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond eavesdropping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches of U.S. citizens and the collection of their business records, Democratic congressional officials and other experts said.

Administration officials acknowledged they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation.

The administration also emphasized there would be strict rules to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance.

The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in the end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.

It also offers a case study in how changes in a complex piece of legislation have the potential to fundamentally alter the basic meaning of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, a landmark national-security law.

Passed in 1978, FISA required the government to obtain a warrant from a secret court for surveillance of Americans.

The updated legislation, signed by President Bush on Aug. 5, gives the government leeway to intercept, without warrants or court oversight, communications between foreigners that are routed through equipment in the U.S., provided that “foreign-intelligence information” is at stake. Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook: CIA Conspiracy

August 19, 2007

FacebookFacebook has 20 million users worldwide, is worth billions of dollars and, if internet sources are to be believed, was started by the CIA.

The social networking phenomenon started as a way of American college students to keep in touch. It is rapidly catching up with MySpace, and has left others like Bebo in its wake.

But there is a dark side to the success story that’s been spreading across the blogosphere. A complex but riveting Big Brother-type conspiracy theory which links Facebook to the CIA and the US Department of Defence.

The CIA is, though, using a Facebook group to recruit staff for its very sexy sounding National Clandestine Service.

Checking out the job ads does require a Facebook login, so if you haven’t joined the site – or are worried that CIA spooks will start following you home from work -check them out on the agency’s own site.

Read the rest of this entry »