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11 February, 2005

Security tagged frame

Smartwater is an aqueous solution containing uniquely-identifiable microdot particles.  Painted onto valuables, it provides a UV-detectable tracer linking recovered stolen goods to their owner.
However, Bruce Schneier has spotted a slight flaw:

The idea is for me to paint this stuff on my valuables as proof of ownership. I think a better idea would be for me to paint it on your valuables, and then call the police.
[Via Boing Boing]

I hadn't made the connection until now, but Smartwater has already been in the news recently: police in London have sent Valentine's Day cards to past burglars saying "Rose are Red, Violets are Blue, When Smartwater is activated, it's over for you". When I first heard that, I thought it offensive that the police should harass past offenders who have discharged their 'debt to society' and against whom the police have no proof of either crime or intent to commit crime - they're citizens with the same right to expect courtesy from public servants as anyone else. By all means keep them on record, but blatently threatening messages are unacceptable, not least when produced and delivered using public funds.
However, it's even more offensive that they were being threatened with a technology open to abuse. What prevents the police from painting Smartwater onto items found in a suspect's home? I'm not saying they would, but they could, and it's not fair on anyone, police or accused, if the courts have to merely trust the police.

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