Monday, December 22, 2008

Will I get a response for Christmas?

No updates, nothing to report. It's been 19 days since I mailed my letters, and no word yet...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Letter to Lexmark's Privacy Officer(s)

Having given up on getting a response through telephone support, I composed two identical letters today: I addressed the main one to the Lexmark's Canadian Privacy Officer, and CC'd it to their privacy officer in the States.

It reads:

To Whom It May Concern;

RE: Forensic Tracking Dots on Lexmark Colour Laser Printers

I am writing regarding an issue that has come to my attention regarding Lexmark colour laser printers and forensic tracking dot technology. In late October 2008, I was forwarded information that explained how tracking codes were embedded on all pages printed on colour laser printers. Alarmed, I went home and confirmed that my printer – a Lexmark C530dn, serial number 9416FX1 – indeed coated each page with a near-invisible screen of yellow dots.

I understand some of the reasons for including these tracking dots – counterfeit detection, namely – but I do not believe the technology is justified, especially without prior knowledge or consent from the consumer. It is a violation of my right to privacy for this technology to be included on my printer, as every document that I print is “watermarked” with a unique serial that can be traced back to me.

I would like to provide a brief background of the communication channels I’ve been through so far regarding this issue:

[removed... just read the previous blog posts!]

Having found Canadian phone support unsuccessful, I now resort to writing letters. I respectfully request that the following six questions be answered, as I have been unable to find a satisfactory answer to them so far:

· Is it absolutely true, as Brian at Lexmark International stated, that it is impossible to disable the forensic tracking dots? If not, what method can I use to disable the tracking dots?

· Is a solution being developed, or will a solution be developed, to disable the yellow tracking dots?

· What American law, as Brian at Lexmark International indicated, mandates the inclusion of yellow tracking dots on colour laser printers?

· Does this law apply in Canada? Is this legal in Canada? If so, please indicate exactly which laws make this so.

· Are there other security features embedded in this printer that make it easier to track documents I print?

· Will Lexmark willingly provide information to their consumers – previous or potential – regarding the forensic tracking dot feature?

I appreciate your time and consideration in responding to this request for additional information. If you require any additional information on my behalf, I’ve kept detailed records of correspondence to date, and would be happy to provide it.

I was fairly impressed at Lexmark's response time for the last correspondence I sent. Let's see if I can get any real answers out of their privacy officers. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Phone Tag

The Story So Far:

This morning, I tried getting in touch with someone at Lexmark Canada. It's harder than it seems to talk to anyone useful. I did, however, record the calls so I could make better notes about them.

I'm not posting the recorded calls - I think that's creepy. Here are the transcript notes.

Call #1 - 1-800-539-6275
  • Talked to a guy named James, obviously Canadian. I explain my "problem" to James, including the fact that Lexmark USA called the issue a security issue.
  • He transfers me to a new menu system that I have to navigate. A robot woman finally directs me to a person.
  • Holding, holding, holding.
  • Robot woman: "Your call was unable to be completed. Call the toll-free number again". Damn!!
Call #2 - 1-800-539-6275
  • I re-navigate through the menu for tech support. It asks for the first four numbers of my printer's machine number, it tells me I am a liar. I navigate to the "support for all lasers" option.
  • I tell the robot I have an existing service request number and enter it.
  • "Your call is being routed to a dispatch agent".
  • Signal volume fades incredibly, a very-outsourced woman answers the line.
  • She asks me what the issue is... but there is a language barrier in understanding the issue.
  • She mumbles mumbles mumbles TRANSFER YOU mumbles
  • A man answers the line - again, a very outsourced man answers the phone.

  • Brahm: Explains yellow dots issue, matrix of yellow dots, Lexmark USA confirmed this is a security measure, why is it implemented in Canada?
  • Lexmark Outsource: "Don't worry, we are here to help you." (actual quote :-) )
  • Lexmark Outsource: Are you next to the printer so we can diagnose the issue?
  • Brahm: It's already been diagnosed, I've done the test pages, I've sent them samples, I'm looking for answers, about why it is happening. I want to know why the dots are being printed, not how.
  • Lexmark Outsource: Was the issue resolved?
  • Brahm: No, because the dots still print on the page. Lexmark USA says it's a built-in feature, they print on purpose.
  • Lexmark Outsource: I am sorry, but it is not a built-in issue. It is not a feature. There are many parts that can cause this issue, the toner cartridge, the photoconductor unit, etc etc, we need to identify the part causing the issue.
  • Brahm: I'm sorry sir, I've already done through all of that, I talked to {removed} at Lexmark USA, I received a new set of PC units, that doesn't fix the problem, we've swapped toner cartridges, that doesn't fix the problem, these dots appear because it's an anti-counterfeiting measure, and I want to know WHY they appear on printers sold in Canada.
  • Lexmark Outsource: Not sure about that... as far as I know, we can diagnose the issue, and I am not sure what is calling it.
  • Brahm: Okay, do you know of anyone who works in product engineering, or anyone who works in the Canadian HQ who works in security, or something like that?
  • I received the number 1-800-663-7662 x0 for Canadian Customer Support and thanked the agent for his help.
Call #3 - 1-800-663-7662
  • A french-Canadian sounding robot picks up the call. I am optimistic about the Canadian-ness of the line.
  • Lisa picks up the call. I give her the brief rundown - I said there was a security issue, I've been passed around Lexmark USA and outsourced tech support, I need to talk to someone about laser printers.
  • Jason gets the new call. I give him the rundown about the yellow dots, the American tech support, the photoconductor replacement, the admission of the security feature.
  • I said that HE said it was a "security feature mandated by the government" and hoped I didn't sound crazy.
  • Jason offers to put me through to tech support. I start to protest but he says "I'll put you right through" and mashes "hold" as fast as he can.
  • Oh NO... Outsourced tech support answers. I give the rundown... AGAIN... and the call is disconnected. Signal faded, who knows.
Today's Learnings:
  • 1-800-539-6275 has 5,610 Google hits. This number is also 1-800-LEXMARK. This goes somewhere in the states.
  • 1-800-663-7662 has 47 Google hits. I think this is the secret number to the inside! At least for Lexmark Canada.
  • Outsourced tech support - while good for "not enough toner" troubleshooting - can be pretty painful at resolving any real issues.
  • Lexmark's easy solution for the yellow dots is to just toss you on a line to India. I think letter-writing and emails is the way to go.
  • Lexmark USA and Lexmark Canada both have privacy offiers.
    Privacy Mailbox
    740 West New Circle Road
    Lexington, Kentucky 40550

    Attention: Privacy Officer Inc.
    50 Leek Crescent
    Richmond Hill, ON
    L4B 4J3
For the time being, I am going to give up on phone calls. Phone calls are too hard. The next order of business is to write hard-copy, paper letters to both the Canadian and American privacy offices, and maybe to a general address at each head office as well. At this point, I want to know:
  • What American law mandates the yellow dot security feature?
  • Why is this feature included on printers sold in Canada?
  • Is this legal in Canada? If so, please indicate exactly which laws make this so.
  • Is there any way to disable the feature? If not, why not? Is a solution being developed to disable this feature?
  • Are there other features embedded in this printer that make it easier to track documents that I print?
Go consumers!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lexmark Confirms Existance of Tracking Dots

My Lexmark support rep called me and left a message on my voicemail at about 10:00AM CST today - he had a question about how I had swapped the yellow and magenta cartridges to produce dots of a different color.

Just as I finished checking my voicemail, he called back again at 10:25AM CST!

Here's an approximate transcript - I was making notes as fast as I could, so this isn't verbatim.

Lexmark: Hi Brahm, I'm following up on that last message that I left you. I walked down to Product Engineering and talked to them about your yellow dots issue. I thought it was toner splash (or something like that? -B) but it turns out, you were correct about the counterfeit security function.

Brahm: So they're printed on purpose. Is there any way to disable the function?

L: No, the government won't let us disable it, like I said, it's a counterfeit security issue. Usually you cannot even see the dots unless you change the toner cartridge or use a high-resolution scanner.

B: In one of my letters, I asked about replacement printers. Does Lexmark make any color lasers that do not have the forensic tracking dots?

L: No. The government won't let us change it, it's the law.

B: Do you know which law?

L: (this question was kind of deflected in conversation - B)

B: I live in Canada. Does this US Government law apply here?

L: You are going to have to call Lexmark Canada's customer care line about that. Let me grab their number (pause)... 1-800-539-6275. Be sure to select the "Canada" option.

B: Thanks.. what should I do about the photoconductor units you shipped me? I can ship them back if you'd like.

L: No, you can keep them. Those are on us.

B: Thanks for all of your help.

My Lexmark rep was actually pretty helpful. I know his name but I don't think it's entirely appropriate to release it.

Holy smokes! Today was exciting! Today's learnings:
  • ALL Lexmark color lasers use forensic tracking dot technology.
  • Lexmark offers no options for printer exchange if you have an issue with the dots (to be fair, I am sure printers can be returned for refund within a certain timeframe).
  • There is some sort of American law that mandates forensic tracking dot technology and there is nothing average consumers can do to "opt out".
  • It is unknown whether or not this is legal in Canada.
Next step: It's time to bring the fight to this side of the border, and call Lexmark Canada. I think the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will be involved soon enough, as well as some other bodies I outlined here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Package From Lexmark Received


I arrived home today to find a package from Lexmark waiting for me.

It was massive....

Along with a packlist, this was included:

A four-pack of photoconductor! Lexmark's solution to the problem. Sealed as "genuine Lexmark".

Mmm, fresh photoconductor.

Will it get rid of the yellow dots? STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT! (updating throughout the evening).


Photoconductor units are swapped. Initial prints reveal presense of yellow dots. Scans to come.

Before swapping photoconductor units I printed one last set of Menu Settings Pages and Print Quality Tests for reference.

I carefully noted serial numbers of all of the new (and old) photoconductor units.

I was careful to make sure that I could match which "slots" the old units came from and where the new ones were placed. I have photos of each "pair", and can say with certainty which new units replaced which old units if necessary.

Four new photoconductor units installed and ready to print:

First batch of menu settings pages and print tests. By initial observation I can still see a yellow dot pattern, and it appears to be identical to the old pattern.


7:15PM - Scans Galore

The nail is in the coffin: photoconductor units are not responsible for the yellow dots on Lexmark C530 printers.

You can click on this image of the Print Quality page from after the swap to see the dot pattern:

Here is how I make the dots more visible to the human eye in Photoshop, step by step.

1. Scan image at 1200dpi. Open with Photoshop.

2. Image -> Adjustments -> Brightness/Contrast: Set contrast to 100.

3. Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate. This turns everything black and white.

4. To test to see if the photoconducter units changed the dot pattern, I overlaid the dot pattern I had previously scanned and "developed" with Photoshop. The purple boxes are the previous pattern with a magenta background, red stroke, 50% transparancy, laid over the new scan. The dot pattern is clearly and obviously identical.

Note that this process only filters colors that are already present in the image; it does not place any new information into the scanned image.

  • Photoconductor units are not responsible for the appearance of forensic tracking dots (but we already knew this)
  • Replacing the photoconductor units does not change the tracking dot pattern.
  • Replacing your photoconductor units is Lexmark's first line of defense when you send them evidence that yellow dots appear on all of your printouts.
  • A full set of photoconductor units retail for between $104 and $149.
Also, I just realized that my support rep did not acknowledge the fact that I had mailed them samples from two other printers. That is a point I will have to bring up when I deliver the news that this $150 "fix" didn't work.

Email to support (8:08PM):

Hi {removed},

Thanks for your assistance so far in trying to find a solution to this yellow dot problem. I received a C53034X unit in the mail today - a new set of four photoconductor units.

To make a long story short, the replacement photoconductor units did *not* fix the problem. I still see the yellow dots on printouts, and the pattern is exactly the same as before.

I documented the whole replacement process. I have serial numbers of old and new photoconductor units, photographs of the whole process, new Print Quality and Menu Settings pages, but I don't want to swamp you with information you don't need.

I don't know if I made it clear in my previous correspondence, but in the support package I mailed, I included printouts from two other Lexmark color lasers I have access to - not just my home unit. The units both printed a yellow dot pattern as well. To me, this is evidence that yellow dots are common to Lexmark color lasers, and not a problem isolated to my home unit.

Please advise on what the next course of action is to try and remove these yellow dots. I am prepared to send any printouts and documentation you require, or send back the new (or old) photoconductor units if need be.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lexmark Phones Back: The Conversation

The Story So Far:

Lexmark left a message on my phone yesterday saying that they had some questions about the printouts that I included in the package I mailed to them. I phoned them back to clarify some details.

I made some notes throughout the call but I couldn't keep up with everything. Here were some of the questions, answers and comments:

Lexmark: I see the printouts you included, the magenta dots that show up when you swap toner cartridges is not normal. It must be a photoconductor issue that is causing the dots.

Brahm: I tested every combination of swapping the yellow and magenta photoconductor units and toner cartridges, and the dots show up every time (and in different colors, when the toner cartriges are swapped).

L: It must be a photoconductor issue.

B: All four of my photoconductor units can produce the dots, are you saying that all four of my photoconductor units are defective?

L: They must be. We'll ship you another set of photoconductor units by tomorrow and hopefully that will fix the issue [confirms address].

B: You think we'll see the dots disappear?

L: Yes.

B: Okay, thanks for your time. I'll let you know how it goes.

Near the start of the call, my customer support rep also made a mumbly-grumbly comment about "counterfeiting dots" that I couldn't really understand. He was talking fast and loud but muffled, and I think he basically blew off my entire letter about tracking dots and privacy issues, and was focused on finding a generic tech-support solution. My impression from him was that he thinks the dots shouldn't be happening.

COLE'S NOTES VERSION: Lexmark denies tracking dots exist for tracking, blames faulty hardware; ships four new photoconductor units at no charge to rectify problem. But will it rectify the problem???

Tune in once I get the new photoconductor units to find out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Comprehensive Support/Inquiry Package

I finished my package to send to Lexmark's headquarters in Kentucky. The contents:
  • Polite, concise letter, detailing the problem, the support and correspondence to date, and some of the "evidence" I've also included.
  • Appendix A: Scanned, enhanced, and re-printed evidence of my printer's forensic tracking dots. Ironically printed on the very same printer!
  • Appendix B: Scanned, enhanced, and re-printed evidence of forensic tracking dots on at least two other printers at the University of Saskatchewan.
  • Appendix C: Email correspondence to date.
  • Lexmark Print Quality Test - normal settings.
  • Lexmark Print Quality Test - yellow & magenta photoconductors swapped.
  • Lexmark Print Quality Test - yellow & magenta toner cartridges swapped.
  • Lexmark C530 Menu Settings Page
  • Two test pages from Lexmark C760 and C752 printers at the U of S.
Final Page Count: 29

The letter itself was two pages, but here is the "meat":
I understand some of the reasons for including these “forensic tracking dots” – counterfeit detection, namely – I do not believe it is justified. It is a violation of my fundamental human right to privacy and private life for this function to be included on the product without my prior knowledge or consent. I would like to see companies doing their due diligence and making this information known before customers commit to a purchase, especially one totalling hundreds of dollars (perhaps thousands including toner over the printer’s lifetime).

I can assure you that my interest in using my Lexmark C530 to participate in illegal counterfeiting or other activities is null, but I am concerned about my privacy. Given that my printer’s pattern is the same regardless of Toner Cartridge or Photoconductor Unit, anyone with a reference page can associate a document I’ve printed to me, and on principle I find this unacceptable.

The least I can hope for is a response with some details, or potentially some additional information. I am not expecting a fix at this point. I've read some scary stuff - the incident that prompted the EFF investigation was when a guy phoned his printer company to inquire about the yellow dots - a week later, the United State Secret Service showed up at his door.

If I get a non-satisfactory response from this venue, I'm not close to being out of options. There is Lexmark's Canadian headquarters in Richmond Hill, ON, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Consumer Protection Branch of the Government of Saskatchewan, the Canadian BBB, Lexmark's corporate executive, Lexmark's Board of Directors, and my very-favorite consumer rights blog, the Consumerist. There's also the long-shot potential for local media coverage - nothing major, probably a small write-up. Nothing I've done yet is quite newsworthy, so I will hold off on all new contacts until Lexmark is able to send me a response. I'm a big supporter of consumer and privacy rights, so I will push this issue until I can get a satisfactory response from someone!

Until then, maybe we can crack the encoding on the Lexmark's forensic dots...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Dot Pattern

Here are my dots. Can you see the pattern?

Lexmark C530 Serial Number 9416FX1 (rendered in Photoshop to show dots visibly)

It's ridiculously obvious. Here are some rectangles colored over the pattern:

This really makes the pattern pop out. The dots are in a 21x8 matrix. The pattern is always the same - patterns from previous prints are identical to this scanned and rendered image. Therefore, it's impossible that date information is encoded into the pattern on Lexmark printers, just serial numbers.

I was on campus today, and found two more Lexmark color laser printers.

Lexmark C752 - Serial Number 940FNX2 (rendered in Photoshop to show dots visibly)

The green boxes are separate occurrences of the pattern; they cover the entire page just like my printer.

It's harder to see dots on this page because the print quality was poor; I am sure both of these campus printers have printed thousands more sheets than mine. Because the clarity of the pattern varied, I had to draw a massive grid to make sure I wasn't missing any dots from one square to the next. I was careful to ignore "noise" and only focus on repeating dots.

Lexmark C760 - Serial Number 940KG8H (rendered in Photoshop to show dots visibly)

I put everything into Excel to try and make sense of the patterns:

I'm temped to think that since the grid is 21x8 on all printers, and each serial number is seven characters, that each character is encoded by three columns of the pattern. For example, because the first six columns are identical on all three of the printers I've tested, the first three columns could mean "9" and the next three could mean "4".

I haven't had the time to really thoroughly check it out, but here's the information for the world to see.

Lexmark's Reply: The Escalation

I got an email back today from the same eSupport representative at Lexmark. Here is what it said:

Dear Brahm,

Thank you for continuing to use our e-mail service.

My higher level support requires a physical copies of the Menu Setting Pages and the Print Quality Pages. Please send it to the following address.

Please don't forget to put the service request number {removed}.

Lexmark International
740 West New Circle Road
Dept 504J44L
BLD 4-2
Lexington, KY 40550
Attraction "{removed}"
Airborne on account #

Please follow the steps to print the Menu Setting Pages and the Print Quality Pages.

To Print The Menus Setting Pages,

{removed - long & boring}

To Print The Print Quality Pages:

{removed - long & boring}

Here is your Service Request # 1-

If you have any more questions or concerns, please contact me at your convenience and I will be happy to assist you. (If I am not available, another representative may reply to your request.)

Lexmark eSupport Team

The next step for me will be to put together a package to Lexmark, and carefully document when I'm sending. I will get that done within the next two days or so and fire it off to the customer service team in Kentucky. Maybe I will CC some test pages to the EFF while I'm at it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Reply.

Okay, this is the first post I have actually completed in "real time". The rest of the entries were just getting caught up on what I've done over the last day or two.

I just finished composing the following email to my Lexmark eSupport rep. I did my best to be polite, concise, and comprehensive.

Hi {removed},

Thank you for your reply. I have followed your instructions exactly (and have even done some additional troubleshooting), but the tiny near-invisible matrix of yellow dots appears on printed documents regardless. I do NOT think this is an issue with toner cartridges or photoconductor units, but I will leave that for someone else to judge.

Here are the steps I have completed:

0. Before swapping any Photoconductor units, I printed a test page from the Print Quality Pages menu, and scanned it at high resolution. I've attached a file that demonstrates this: procedure_experiment0.jpg. This cropped image is the printer's serial number, and is my "control group".

1. I swapped the Yellow and Magenta Photoconductor units as per your instructions. I printed a second set of Print Quality Pages and scanned the results again, please see procedure_experiment1.jpg.

2. After swapping the Yellow and Magenta Photoconductors, the color did not change to Magenta.

3. Since the color did not change, I can safely conclude that the Photoconductor unit is not defective, based on your information.

4. Even though, according to the above test, the Photoconductor units are not defective, I have included the part numbers for your reference:
C53030X (4 units)
Serial numbers: CAS0633253B3 (Y), CAS0633253C7 (C), CAS0633253C4 (M), CAS063325397 (Black).

5. You said that if the Photoconductor swap didn't work, the toner must be defective. I decided to swap the Magenta and Yellow Toner Cartridges to see if this was true. When I printed a third set of Print Quality Pages, the dots had changed from Yellow to Magenta (see procedure_experiment2.jpg).

Therefore, either BOTH cartridges are defective, or the problem is something else. I would be willing to confirm this with the cyan and black cartridges, if need be.

Yellow Cartridge - C5220YS, Serial CAA080421969
Magenta Cartridge - C5220MS, Serial CAA080585567

I have attached scans of the menu settings pages as per your request. There is adequate toner to complete any print job.

Here is my contact information:
Name: Brahm {removed}
Contact Number: {removed}
Business/Company Name: N/A - the printer was purchased for home office use.
Street Address: {removed}

I would like to re-link you to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's research on the "yellow dots":

If the yellow dots are a result of a security measure implemented by Lexmark, I would appreciate acknowledgment of the fact. Is there is an option to disable the forensic tracking dots? If not, is there a software update that will allow me to do this? If there is no software update yet, is there one in development? Are there Lexmark printers that do not print these dots, and is it possible arrange an exchange for such a model?

I appreciate your assistance in this matter, and sincerely thank you for the time you have dedicated to my inquiry so far!

To be truthful, I do not know what to expect for a response.

I may receive additional technical support - for example "take out the toner and shake it". That's fine and I will play along, but I am extremely doubtful of that working at this point. I would like this issue of consumer rights (knowing what security mechanisms are present in a product you purchase) are present, and how they affect my privacy.

I may receive information about an exchange. It's theoretically possible I can exchange this model for one without forensic tracking dots, but doubtful. Were I to receive another yellow-dot printer in the mail, I would have to start from square one.

I may receive no response. I might "know too much". If that's the case, it's time to write my polite letter of complaint to their customer services, privacy officer, or whomever it is applicable to. If that fails, there is always the Executive Email Carpet Bomb.

The best case is a response that will explain how to disable these dots. Somehow... I feel that is too much to hope for.

The Procedure.

Anyone who knows me will know that science is a pretty big part of my life. It would be important to catalog Lexmark's requests so that I could repeat any experiment if need be and produce the same results.

Before completing Step 1 (swap Yellow and Magenta photoconductor units), I decided it would be best to perform a control experiment. I printed the Print Quality pages with a completely default setup:

Figure 1: Control Print, Default Setup (click for large). As you can see, with a bit of tweaking in Photoshop, the dots pop out and are quite visible.

Next, I followed Lexmark's instructions and swapped the Yellow Photoconductor unit for the Magenta Photoconductor unit. The photoconductor is the unit of the laser printer that aborbs the laser light and causes the toner to react. Here are my photoconductors:

Figure 2: My Photoconductor units. The serial numbers are all visible, should you choose to enlarge this image!

Lexmark predicted that if the yellow dots had been caused by a defective photoconductor unit, the dots would now appear megenta. Here are the results:

Figure 3: Photoconductor swap results. The yellow dots are still present, and have not turned magenta. According to Lexmark, the "problem" is not the photoconductor unit!

The support email goes on to say that "If the issue stays with the same Yellow then the Toner Cartridge is defective, the Toner Cartridge needs to be replaced to fix the issue." Luckily, there is an easy way to prove this hypothesis wrong: swap the toner cartridge.

I swapped the yellow and magenta toner cartridges. Here is a picture of the swap:

Figure 4: The yellow and magenta toner cartridges have been swapped.

Any predictions for what will happen?

Figure 5: A scan of the Print Quality Page after the yellow and magenta toner cartridges have been swapped. Note that tiny magenta dots are clearly visible everywhere on the page! This image has not been manipulated, except to crop it to a smaller size.

By Lexmark's definition, BOTH of my yellow and magenta toner cartidges appear to be "defective". I wonder what would happen if I tested my black and cyan cartidges in a similar manner... I am sure they will be "defective" as well.

  • Yellow dots are NOT dependent on a photoconductor unit.
  • Dots appearing are NOT dependent on what color toner cartridge is inserted.
  • Dots WILL appear from whatever cartridge is inserted in the yellow toner's spot, on any color document printed.
  • There is NO WAY to disable the yellow dots in any Lexmark menu or manual.
  • Based on information collected from other websites, it has been proven these dots contain information like your printer's serial number, and the date and time your document was printed.
Here is the last piece of information Lexmark wanted - my Menu Page Settings reports. I've inlcuded them here for the internet's reference.

Figures 6, 7, 8: Printer Settings.

Next step: The Reply.

The Email.

I figured that after confirming of the presence of the yellow dots, I could email Lexmark and ask them what the deal was. I sent them the following email through their generic customer support page:


My printer prints a matrix of yellow dots over everything I print, and I cannot disable this "feature". After some web searching, I've found that the dots appear to be intentional:

I have a few photos I snapped of this that I can email if required.

I have two questions:
1) Can I disable the yellow dots?
2) Why are they there in the first place?

Thank you!

I figured that they would take me at my word. Here is the response I received:

Dear Brahm,

Thank you for contacting Lexmark email support. I would like to assist you in this regard.

As I understand from your mail that the Lexmark C530 printer is exhibiting print quality issue. For which the main cause of the issue could be with the Photoconductor Unit or the Toner Cartridge. In order to figure out which of the part is causing the issue, please follow the troubleshooting steps given below.

1. Please swap the Yellow Photoconductor Unit with the Magenta Photoconductor Unit and print the Print Quality Pages.
To Print The Print Quality Pages:
a: Power the printer off.
b: While holding down both Check Mark & Right Arrow button and the button on the printer's operator panel, power the printer back on.
c: When you see Performing Self Test or the clock graphic on the printer display, release both buttons.
d: Use either the Top Arrow Button or Down Arrow Button on the printer operator panel to scroll through the various menu options until you see Select Print Quality Pages (or Select Prt Quality Pages) on the printer display.
e: Press the Select button or Check Mart Button to initiate the printing of the quality pages. When the pages have finished printing, Select Print Quality Pages (or Select Prt Quality Pages) should once again appear on the printer display.

2. Check whether after swapping the photoconductor Unit, does the color changes to Magenta.

3. If it changes to the Magenta then the photoconductor Unit is defective. The Photoconductor Unit has to be replaced to fix the issue.

4. Please get back with the photoconductor Unit Part Number and barcode Number (found on the Photoconductor Unit).

5. If the issue stays with the same Yellow then the Toner Cartridge is defective, the Toner Cartridge needs to be replaced to fix the issue. Please get back with the Toner Cartridge Part Number and the barcode Number (found on the Toner Cartridge).

Please print out a Menu settings page to identify the supply level. To do so follow the steps to print the Menu Settings Pages below:

1. Make sure the printer is turned on and in the Ready state.
2. Scroll in the menu till you find Reports.
3. Press select and under this menu search for Menu Settings Page.
4. Press select again to print the pages.

Please get back with results and the following information,

First Last Name
Contact Number
Business/Company Name
Street Address Where Printer Is Located With The Postal/Province Code

Here is your Service Request # {removed}

If you have any more questions or concerns, please contact me at your convenience and I will be happy to assist you. (If I am not available, another representative may reply to your request.)

Lexmark eSupport Team
[THREAD ID:{removed}]

To make a long story short, the issue at hand of yellow tracking dots was ignored, and I am required to jump through several technical troubleshooting hoops before I can make a more extensive claim that my printer does, in fact, encode forensic tracking dots on everything I print! But I WILL cooperate, in the interest of my own privacy and consumer rights!

Next step: The Procedure.

The Evidence.

Digital camera in hand, I snapped a few shots of a Windows Printer Test Page using the digital macro function for the extreme closeups. Here is what I found:

Gasp! It's those tiny yellow dots.

They're a bit hard to see, but one trick the EFF recommends is to shine a blue LED on the page, to make them "pop".

You can see these dots are one pixel, and printed extremely lightly. How many people with color printers are aware their printers are encoding information about WHEN and WHERE they print onto every page?

It begins!

Hi. My name is Brahm. I own a Lexmark C530dn printer. I bought it in the summer of 2007 from the Campus Computer Store at the University of Saskatchewan. It's an excellent color laser printer, and I really like it, but I have one problem - it prints a near-invisible matrix of yellow dots on everything I print.

I read about the dots, and read something crazy: that the dots could be used to encode information into every page you print, like the time and date you printed the document, and the serial number of your printer.

Not a big deal, right? This issue has huge implications on customer privacy. Imagine if every document you ever printed could be traced back to you - every resume, every letter, every assignment, every government document printed online. It would be equivalent to if every dollar you ever spent could be traced back to you, or if any act you ever committed anonymously could be traced back to you. It's an invasion of privacy, and a violation of free speech by losing the ability to communicate with anonimity.

I feel that, in terms of my printing habits, I have nothing to hide, and will be updating with blog with "sensitive" information about my printer without hesitation. This includes my printer's serial number, which happens to be 9416FX1.

These webpages were my two starting links:
Electronic Frontier Foundation -
Massachusetts Institute of Technology -

I'm starting this blog to document my experiences in contacting Lexmark customer support, or any additional information I stumble across. Please feel free to email me at or leave a comment on this blog!