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.


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