Gmail rolls out DRM for email and office documents, calls it “Confidential Mode”Boing Boing #Confidential_ModeJanuary 12, 2019
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It should be no secret by now that thanks to Adobe’s ubiquitous suite of design software, graphic designers do the bulk of their work in front of a computer screen.
Google has rolled out a “Confidential Mode” for Gmail and Google Docs attachments, promising users that they’ll be able to send emails to their contacts that can’t be shared, printed or copied.
The problems with this system aren’t limited to easy-to-defeat security that might lull users into a false sense of security, though: because the system uses DRM to restrict document usage, it gives Google the legal grounds to shut down rivals who make products that can read and write docs created with its office suite, creating a legally enforced lock-in.
To prevent rivals from making their own interoperable products that might simply ignore these restrictions, the program encrypts the user’s documents, and hides the decryption keys where users aren’t supposed to be able to find them.
This is a very brittle sort of security: if you send someone an email or a document that they can open on their own computer, on their own premises, nothing prevents that person from taking a screenshot or a photo of their screen that can then be forwarded, printed, or otherwise copied.
We believe that using the term “Confidential Mode” for a feature that doesn’t provide confidentiality as that term is understood in infosec is misleading.