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Connecting a Disc to a Writer, continued

October 27, 2011

Since the original article was published I’ve had some discussions with people and such. The result of this is that while I am still of the opinion that any sort of identification on a CD or DVD is rare, there is in fact a standard for recording the serial number of a writer on a DVD-R. Not DVD+R, just the -R variety.

I added the capability to read and display this to CD/DVD Inspector and it will be released shortly.

However, after looking at a relatively large number of DVDs in the office I can pretty much say that it would be unusual to find a serial number. I have seen a couple of instances where a manufacturer and model were put on a disc but no serial number. I will keep checking and post something if a serial number is uncovered.

I do also want to say that there is an incredible (but not really surprising) amount of misinformation about this on the Internet. The EFF has an interesting article titled Harry Potter and the Digital Fingerprints that gets the entire subject mostly wrong. It is true that if a camera includes a serial number in the Exif data that it can be traced, but most cameras do not do this. Certainly consumer-grade cameras do not. It is true that some color laser printers embed nearly invisible codes on printed pages, but again not all do this and most consumer-level printers do not. The entire part about CD and DVD burners is utterly wrong – RID is mandatory for standalone audio recorders but not computer devices and there is no such agreement from 1995.

On the subject of other information that could potentially be used for tracking, such as MAC addresses and the ESN/IMEI number of a cell phone this information isn’t there for the purpose of tracking but is how the devices function. Could these be made to be more easily changed? Perhaps, but the ease of altering ESN numbers allowed the whole cell phone cloning rage that was going on in the 1990s.

Of course, with the EFF publishing this sort of misinformation you can assume there are plenty of people copying it and linking to it. According to the sort of standards for truth and accuracy promulgated by Google and Wikipedia, this must mean that it is correct – the group is always right. Well, sorry but it is not correct. Unless you spent more than $500 for your camera, it almost certainly is not including a serial number in every photo. Your DVD burner is not including a serial number on every disc unless you are in an extreme minority. And if you have a consumer-grade color laser printer it almost certainly is not producing pages with any sort of tracking information. Would the $50,000 Canon color laser printer at the office have such tracking? Perhaps.

I guess this could be summed up as “Spend more, get more tracking.”

I will continue to write about this as information about it develops.

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