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Cisco next time?


By Scott Bradner


If you want to be a counterfeiter don't upgrade your version of PhotoShop.  At the request of a consortium of central banks around the world, but not because of any law requiring it, Adobe inserted some 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.  At first blush this seems to be a reasonable way to slow down 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 own copy of PhotoShop CS.  The software recognized new-style 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 old-style $20 bills, nor did it recognize English 5 or 10 pound notes.  (That was all the money I had around the house to try.) 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.


Since U.S. law allows one-sided color reproductions of U.S. currency as long as the image is less than 3/4ths or more then 1.5 times the size of the actual bill. ( PhotoShop CS stops the user from doing completely legal things. Other countries have similar laws (see In fact, the U.S. Secret Service could not have used PhotoShop CS to produce their web page if they used a current rather than an old $20 bill as the sample currency.


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


o They inserted third party software into their application, how sure are they that the software does not spy on the users in other ways?  I wonder if my tests were recorded or reported.


o They did not tell their users that they had done this even though, as an Adobe spokesman admitted, they knew it would be discovered at some point.  What was the point of keeping it secret? What else are they keeping secret?


o They are 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 in the U.S.


o They added the software without having any legal requirement to do so.  What software will they add next?


Maybe Adobe will, out of the goodness of their heart, add porn scanning software next.  Exotrope, Inc. 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 the banks to get scanner manufactures 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 their friends.  This would be a never-ending chain that should have been stopped by Adobe.


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