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Earlier this week a software engineer Robert Heaton posted on his blog that during installation and setup of an HP Printer there is some alarming additions included in the software.
He noted a “Data Collection Notice and Settings” page in the installer. Heaton explains how HP uses their printers to collect data which the end user would never want nor expect it should.
In summary, HP wants its printer to collect all kinds of data that a reasonable person would never expect it to. This includes metadata about your devices, as well as information about all the documents that you print, including timestamps, number of pages, and the application doing the printing (HP state that they do stop short of looking at the contents of your documents).
Product Usage Data – We collect product usage data such as pages printed, print mode, media used, ink or toner brand, file type printed (.pdf, .jpg, etc.), application used for printing (Word, Excel, Adobe Photoshop, etc.), file size, time stamp, and usage and status of other printer supplies. We do not scan or collect the content of any file or information that might be displayed by an application.
Device Data – We collect information about your computer, printer and/or device such as operating system, firmware, amount of memory, region, language, time zone, model number, first start date, age of device, device manufacture date, browser version, device manufacturer, connection port, warranty status, unique device identifiers, advertising identifiers and additional technical information that varies by product.
While none of this is illegal and you do technically provide consent when agreeing to their notice, the details on this are hidden in a drop down bar that seems to be intentionally hidden, though thankfully it allows you to opt-out.
HP intends to use your data for the serving of advertisers:
One would assume HP would be tracking this data to better understand their own client base and help better serve their needs, rather than selling the data off for short term benefits.
Moving on, he points out that through his own tinkering the setting is on the printer itself which is called “Store anonymous usage information”.
Basically the printer collects data from all the apps you use to make documents, with time stamps, document sizes, file types used (PDF, JPEG ETC) and usage reports. HP states in its privacy statement that it DOES NOT scan the content of your documents, even so this is still incredibly troubling.
This entire thing is quite troubling and once again shows that in the world of tech, you aren’t buying the product. You ARE the product.
The full blog post and his own opinions can be found over on his website.