Written by Daniel Chung

Google Apps for Work released a security feature last July which enables the owner of a document to disable the download, print, and copy functions for Google App files using Information Rights Management (IRM).

I was excited to see that Google was looking more into rights management solutions as it is not a common feature in most cloud service solutions. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts (Link: 5 Security Concerns when using Google at Work), I use Google Apps for work regularly so I was eager to test out the IRM functionality and implement it within my own work environment as it looked like it could solve some of my security concerns.

Blocking Copying Functions for Google Apps
Upon testing the feature, I found that I was able to block copy & paste, clipboard copy, export, downloading, and printing functions for Google App files, specifically for viewers and commenters. This feature is most useful in situations where I want to receive feedback on a Google Document but I do not want the shared users to copy or save the data to their own machines. [Link: http://googleappsupdates.blogspot.com/2015/07/disable-downloading-printing-and.html]

Google IRMThough I should mention that you cannot control each of these blocks individually, it wasn’t too big of a problem since when I want to block copying, I typically want to block printing and exporting as well.

IRM in Google Drive
The IRM feature also expands to non-Google Apps files stored in Google Drive and disables the menu items for export, copying, and printing. But I noticed that the features aren’t as in-depth for Google Drive files in comparison to Google App-files since content can still be copied using the copying keyboard shortcuts.

I have some concerns with the fact that files can be opened and then screen captured for Google Apps and Non-Apps files alike. The protection for Google Drive files only applies when the files are viewed within the browser as well.

Feature Does Not Cover Editors
The IRM only applies to users that have viewer or commenter access. So the feature cannot prevent editors from copying information. I had hoped that the IRM function would have covered all user types because there are instances where I do not want editors to be able to copy the information to their own systems but I still want the collaborative functionalities that make Google Apps so great. If Google expands the protection to editors as well, it could help to greatly improve the usability of the IRM feature. [Next Post: 4 Reasons Why Google IRM is not Enough for Corporate File Sharing]

Overall, it is nice to see Google being proactive in regards to security by providing more options for users to protect their shared data. Though it’s a positive step in the right direction, the IRM feature does have room for improvement.