Google’s Cloud Printing… Just Fricking Insane…

April 18, 2010 at 11:24 | Posted in Privacy/Security, thoughts | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

O.k. people know I’m no fan of Google. In fact I’ve taken great strides to eek out a Google Free life on-line and off. People also know that I think the whole “Cloud” thing is the biggest pile of marketing crap in years, designed to put a nice spin, “oh! its soft! it’s fluffy! it’s free! it’s like a cloud!” on a huge step backwards to a time when people had to pay through the nose for server time to do any computing. “Cloud” is about stripping away your power and autonomy so that the owners of the “cloud” servers can sell it back to you.

This is exactly the case with Google’s cloud printing. They are going to make your life easier.. Or so they say.. and it’ll only cost you.. oh… all your privacy.

The first thing I’d like to clear up is a lot of people are claiming that this will do away with printer drivers and having to install them. If you read the documentation from Google this is plainly not the case, unless you are talking about an (at this point mythical) cloud aware printer. For “legacy” (a.k.a every printer out there today) printers you will not only need to install the drivers you’ll need to install a “proxy” on your computer to make the printer cloud aware. Oh and then you’ll have to leave the computer with the proxy on it powered up and on-line 24/7 if you want to use the print from anywhere anytime functionality.

Still a good deal you say? All that convenient printing and all you had to do was put a Google proxy on your machine and install printer drivers that you would have had to install anyway. Not so, Say I. You have to consider that now everything you print via this “cloud” is flowing through Google’s servers, and you can be 100% sure they will be scanning them and using what they learn to sell ads aimed directly at you. (Oh, and storing the info for who knows how long.)

As witnessed above I have two major problems with this whole idea and one that hasn’t be talked about yet. This takes a local and generally secure activity, printing, and turns it into an on-line and thus potentially insecure activity. It also is completely unnecessary. There already exists a “print from anywhere” over the Internet technology, and Hey, it doesn’t go through Google’s scan everything servers. It’s called “Internet Printing Protocol” and is supported by CUPS out of the box, and readily available on Microsoft machines too. You could set this up almost as easily and have all the joy of a Internet facing printer (including the security concerns). The ONLY reason Google isn’t promoting this is that it doesn’t send the data through their servers.

The third and as yet unmentioned annoyance about all this is that Google is clearly looking to have this technology “embedded” in printers and routers so people will only see the “print from anything anywhere” and not realize the cost in bandwidth, security, and privacy.

“This current requirement is why we are excited about working with the industry to build native support for cloud print services into their printers. We are also hoping some clever folks in the community will build proxies-in-a-box (like routers with print server abilities) so users get all the benefits of the proxy without needing to leave their PC powered on.”

Poor Chrome OS users are going to be bolted into using Google Cloud Printing.

” Google Chrome OS printing

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!

When users print from a web app that directly integrates with Google Cloud Print, then that works as described earlier with no involvement from Chrome OS. When users are printing a web page that is not making use of Google Cloud Print (such as a boarding pass, movie tickets, a magazine article, etc.), the app that is printing is the Google Chrome browser on Chrome OS. In this case, Google Chrome on Chrome OS is a native app that uses Google Cloud Print and common print dialog. The content to be printed is uploaded to the Google Cloud Print along with the job ticket information and then sent to the printer. More details are in the design document.”

So to sum up. Google Cloud printing:

  • Bad for autonomy (takes something you can do yourself and make you depend on Google for it).
  • Bad for privacy (sends what would other wise have been local data out to the Internet, scans it, stores it, and sends it back again.)
  • Bad for security (sends local data over the internet.Increases your “attack surface” but having the Google print proxy open to the net.).
  • Ignores IPP that offers many of the same features without Google in the middle.

Just plain BAD.

6 Comments

  1. I found your blog today and it’s such a pleasure to read. Very well thought-out and love how long the posts are, too. I’ve been looking for ways to live without google, your posts are really helpful. I’ve also decided to try the flash-diet sometime in the near future :) Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Before publishing your posts, you might want to do some research.

    IPP has no way of achieving what Google is trying to achieve. IPP requires the client to have direct access to the printserver. Google wants all printers, also those behind strict firewalls, to be available over the internet.

    This is why a 3. part is introduced – which of course is Google’s own servers.

    But I agree that its bad to have Google host the world of printers. So I think Google will end up open sourcing Google Cloud print, so others can easily host cloud printers themselves.

    • I agree with you that IPP would require proper configuration of firewalls and routers, but that is a long way from ‘not being able to achieve’ it. I simply want peope to consider, is it worth giving Google access to such personal information just to avoid the hastle of such configuration. Also if this cuts through your firewall like a hot knife through butter is it worth the security risk. Printer spamming being the least of the problems such could cause.

      If Google does go ahead and opensource all parts of this set-up anyone wanting to set up their own rendezvous server (the third part) will be faced with the same problem of needing to configure their firewalls/routers to make the rendezvous server Internet facing and accessible.

  3. Wonderful article. I am working of kind of cloud computing paradigm and see exactly what you said. As information rules in future google is making all efforts to rule there.

    There should be some great alternatives, specially all the open source applications and services combined together can make a huge difference.

    Just a thought, I looking for more to come.

    Liked you blog, nice reading it.

  4. I agree with you about protecting your privacy, especially when it comes to sensitive information. However, the majority of people are incapable of setting up any sort of cloud printing server (most of them probably can’t install a driver…).

    Your blog post sounds like you’re trolling around the internet, with a personal vendetta against Google, even promoting Apple (is if Apple is any better with respect to controlling users, privacy, et cetera.)

    I have found innovative ways to use Google CloudPrint; for example printing emails from my mobile phone, printing photos for my

    • No personal vendetta. I’m just a big fan of privacy and Google, and others are very antithetical to such. I’m definitely no fan of Apple. And would never recommend them or their product. (I’m a big fan of freedom too and Apple is no friend of that). I agree that many users would have a hard time setting up their own cloud based printing service right now. That could be remedied with the right GPL’d software. Even just an extension to CUPS that would automagically handle dynamic DNS and port forwarding via uPNP or ALG or the like. (yeah, both of those are not great for security but I’ll bet those same users have them on by default anyway.).

      Glad you were able to find some use for Google printing. I’m equally glad that you are conscious of the privacy concerns.


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