Cisco next time?

Adobe inserted software that recognizes bank notes into the latest version of Photoshop. ... At first blush this seems to be a reasonable way to slow the rush of teenagers using color computer printers to print their own money, but there are a number of troubling aspects to the story.

If  you want to be a counterfeiter, don't upgrade your version of Adobe Photoshop.

At the request of a consortium of central banks around the world, but not because of any law requiring it, Adobe inserted software that recognizes bank notes into the latest version of Photoshop (designated Photoshop CS). PhotoShop refuses to load any file that contains a picture of a bank note that the software recognizes.


Gibbs doesn't think much of the idea, either


At first blush this seems to be a reasonable way to slow the rush of teenagers using color computer printers to print their own money, but there are a number of troubling aspects to the story.

I did some experiments with my copy of Photoshop CS. The software recognized the new U.S. $20 bills, 10 and 20 Euro notes, Canadian $20, $50 and $100 bills, and English 20 pound notes. It did not recognize U.S. $1, $10, $50 or $100 bills or $20 bills with the old design, nor did it recognize English 5 or 10 pound notes. (That was all the money I had around the house.) In case any law enforcement folk are reading this, I followed the rules and deleted the scanned images as soon as my test was done.

Because U.S. law allows one-sided color reproductions of U.S. currency as long as the image is less than three-fourths or more then 1.5 times the size of the actual bill (more from the Secret Service), Photoshop CS actually stops the user from doing completely legal things. Other countries have similar laws (see www.rulesforuse.org). In fact, the U.S. Secret Service could not have used Photoshop CS to produce its Web page if it used a current rather than an old $20 bill as the sample currency.

A number of things bother me about Adobe's actions:

• It inserted third-party software into its application. How sure is Adobe that the software does not spy on users in other ways? I wonder if my tests were recorded or reported.

• The company didn't tell users it did this, even though, as an Adobe spokesman admitted, it knew it would be discovered at some point. What was the point of keeping it secret? What else is being kept secret?

• The company is blocking totally legal activities. It is not clear to me that any law mandating the inclusion of this type of software would survive a constitutional challenge.

• Adobe added the software without having any legal requirement to do so. What software will it add next?

Maybe Adobe, out of the goodness of its heart, will add porn-scanning software next. Exotrope markets such software under the name "The BAIR Filtering System." At least one reviewer liked it  even though some researchers report that it does not work at all.

The next logical step is for banks to get scanner manufacturers to add this magic software to their products to stop the images at the source. Then they would need to get Cisco to do the same to keep the people with old scanners from sending images to friends. This would be a never-ending chain Adobe should have stopped.

Disclaimer: Harvard thinks it is never-ending, but I did not ask the university about Adobe's actions. The above is my own paranoia.

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