NNSquad - Network Neutrality Squad

NNSquad Home Page

NNSquad Mailing List Information


[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[ NNSquad ] Privacy Questions About the New "Google Cloud Print" Service

        Privacy Questions About the New "Google Cloud Print" Service


Greetings.  Google Labs has just published preliminary specifications
(and an associated call for comments and feedback) for a "print
anywhere" service that they are implementing, called "Google Cloud
Print" ( http://bit.ly/955NSl [ Google Code ] ).

The project has the very laudable goal of reducing OS print stack
complexities and enabling the ability for users of the Google Chrome
OS (and potentially other systems) to send print jobs to any
cooperating printer, anywhere in the world.  Google hopes that printer
manufacturers (or third parties) will implement supporting protocols
in printer firmware, though for now proxy software will be used to
bridge between users and hardware.

It is not immediately clear to me from the available documents to what
extent this model would ultimately be extended to the Google Chrome

While the goal of "universal printing" is wonderful, there are some
tricky non-technical issues that immediately come to mind.

For example, the Google documentation states:

   "Google Chrome OS will use Google Cloud Print for all printing.
    There is no print stack and there are no printer drivers on Google
    Chrome OS!"

This has two immediate and obvious implications.  It would appear that
if you don't have an Internet connection at any given time, you would
seemingly have no way to print under this model.  And perhaps of even
greater concern to some individuals and organizations, any document
that you wished to print would need to transmitted off of the local
system for cloud processing before it could even print on a printer
attached to the same local computer.

While Google explicitly assumes that various organizations will
implement their own cloud processing services that meet the required
specs, at least initially (and presumably for most users for some time
to come) Google itself would be the likely cloud print processor.

The willingness of individuals to send sensitive print jobs through a
remote processing point, simply to have them end up back on the
printer sitting on the desk next to them, seems problematic in at
least some cases.  Firms or organizations with ongoing security
concerns and related policies (law firms, law enforcement, other
government agencies, and so on) may also balk at this model (or simply
be prevented from using it due to privacy and/or security 
regulations) -- even if high-grade encryption protects the documents 
in transit and the cloud processing service promises to delete all 
associated data immediately after print processing.

Google's Chromium OS holds a great deal of promise, and I have very
high hopes for its wide deployment and success.  But my gut feeling is
that any OS or system that depends solely on remote processing for
local printer operations will find its adoption hobbled in many
environments by the kinds of concerns discussed above.

While I most definitely understand the technical attraction of
reducing local print processing complexity, I would urge
reconsideration of the assumption that a 100% reliance (as I read the
documents, anyway) on cloud-based printing can be an adequate
substitute for at least basic local printing capabilities that do not
depend on Internet connections and cloud services to operate.

Lauren Weinstein
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR
   - People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
Co-Founder, NNSquad
   - Network Neutrality Squad - http://www.nnsquad.org
Founder, GCTIP - Global Coalition 
   for Transparent Internet Performance - http://www.gctip.org
Founder, PRIVACY Forum - http://www.vortex.com
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein