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[ NNSquad ] Re: Privacy Questions About the New "Google Cloud Print" Service
You're right -- I did go into rant mode as I was rushing between things and may be overreacting but there is a real issue here. I do recognize that cities do have a problem with budgets and will seek help from wherever they can.
It’s a mixed bag – I cite Skype as a positive example of a solution that doesn’t depend on the network but it too depends on its central directory service rather than a user-distributed approach. I say user-distributed because the Skype controlled directory is probably distributed to but not in a way that the user controls.
My real frustration is the lack of effort to find fully decentralized solutions. I don’t necessarily expect this from the current players because they don’t have the incentive to find an altruistic solution (though I can argue that they would benefit from a larger market). This isn’t morally evil – just a response to their local incentives. I’ve noted the problems with GENI focusing on solving problems solely within the network – it fits the research paradigm that network people should research networks even if the Internet should be seen as empowering applications rather than the network itself.
What concerns me is that interim solutions can breed complacency that makes it more difficult to provide more powerful solutions. It’s the problem we see with firewalls – they give us a sense of local security but don’t give us end-to-end connectivity. The risk is that challenging complacency may indeed come across as a rant because, after all, the solution does work within a comfort zone. It’s only when things go wrong that the problems come to the force.
The reason that I’m so aware of the DNS problem is that I had to think about how to define the relationship between elements in one’s home – a light switch and a light fixture – in a way that works even if you move the elements outside the home. Solutions that require going out of the home such as looking up the information in the DNS don’t “just work”. And, in the end (or at the end-points) you need solutions that don’t depend upon a network operator.
[ Please see my comments below -- Lauren ]
I agree that this is the wrong direction - it takes the idea of "Networks as
a Service" to the next level by making us more dependent upon a centralized
service. It is the anti-Internet making us more dependent upon a middle.
Instead we should have a protocols that allow us to have a direct
relationship between end points. The problem with NATs is the protocol and
instead of adding another layer of dependency we need protocols which
support such direct relationships.
As you note what happens in an emergency when I need to print and can't get
out of the local network? Imagine if you can't turn on a light in your house
without consulting a central server like the DNS. It's a bug not a feature.
Same goes for Schlage which wants to wants to charge me $13 month for their
smart door likes - I can't change who can open the door without going
through their central service.
Is Google joining Cisco and the carriers in making us increasingly dependent
upon their omnipresence and benevolence so they can monetize us? Sure seems
Communities that available themselves of Google Apps should be very afraid.
With all due respect, your reply in this case has pushed the
needle somewhat into the "rant" zone. Google explicitly has
solicited comments on their cloud printing plans -- which to me
says that they are not engraved in stone. I believe that a
reasonable case (as I noted in my original message) can be made
that in spite of the considerable benefits that cloud printing
can bring, there is also a need for some level of native basic
print capabilities for a number of reasons.
You might consider waiting until Google responds on these issues
before launching headfirst into an "Evil Google/Cisco" tirade.
As for monetization, keep in mind that Google also explicitly
assumes that they will not be the only organization providing
cloud print processing. You could presumably set one up, if you
wish. But I would argue that irrespective of who runs the cloud
printing operation, there are still considerations that make
native printing an important design element as a fall-back or
"high security" choice in various situations and for suitably
Your trying to scare communities from Google Apps is
increasingly nonsensical given the real world of municipal
governments and budgets these days. Even large cities like L.A.
have proven themselves incapable of reliably operating their
local IT infrastructures with available budgets and personnel,
and the privacy and security risks in that situation are pretty
awful. Local doesn't mean panacea.
So both with the printing situation in particular and IT more
generally, it's a matter of ideally not being locked wholly into
narrow (often emotionally-laden) pardigms, but rather having the
appropriate options available for each given situation. Easier
said than done, of course.
-- Lauren Weinstein
NNSquad Moderator ]
- - -
[mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of
Sent: Friday, April 16, 2010 16:34
Subject: [ NNSquad ] Privacy Questions About the New "Google Cloud Print"
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
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.
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
- People For Internet Responsibility - http://www.pfir.org
- 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