Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, is a form of technology where a computer can recognize letters in a photo or document and convert it to searchable text. You may be familiar with this from scanned books or searchable Adobe PDF scanned documents.
Google and Facebook have applied this technology to photographs posted online to allow someone to search for a serial number to find a photo of a gun posted on line. The Firearm Blog broke the story.
Stop posting photos of your gun & serial number online immediately. I don't need to go into details on how this can and will eventually be misused. The days of blurring the serial number so some idiot won't try and report your gun as his "stolen" gun are a minor thing in the rearview mirror now.
Speaking of OCR, David Codrea of The War on Guns blog recently posted a link to an ATF newsletter that talks about electronic storing of Form 4473s. Codrea writes: "That electronic 4473 storage variance looks like all it's waiting for is a Democrat majority to reverse the FOPA database appropriations prohibition..."
Federal law currently prohibits an electronic gun registry. To trace a gun now, the ATF must manually go through paper records, tracking a gun from maker, to dealer, to first buyer, and so on. This is a laborious process that often requires identifying the store where the bad guy bought the gun (or searching dozens of stores).
It is a matter of time before dealers are required to keep electronic databases instead of boxes of Form 4473s and a matter of time before the massive ATF file center in West Virginia filled with 4473s and other records is digitized. Then, based on original purchase records, we will have a nearly-full firearm registry. All it will take to expose an old private sale is the seller to give up your name from his Bill of Sale.
Read the articles and keep your data as safe as possible.