Readers of my Blog will be well aware of my previous criticisms of the company’s ambitions to gather all of the world’s knowledge on its servers, and my concerns over its infringement of traditional ideas about privacy.
It is therefore of considerable interest that Google has just launched Dashboard. This is intended to provide users of Google services with a summary of all the information that Google currently lets users know that it stores about them. This is what Google Dashboard shows when you visit the site:
Always having refused to have a Gmail account, and limiting my use of Google, because I do not want the company to benefit too much from the information that they have about me (yes, of course, I use Google as a search engine – albeit as little as possible – check out Cuil), I am delighted to see this limited opening up of their secrecy. But just imagine, they will now be checking up on those who use Dashboard, and how they use it!
Google themselves claim under a heading Transparency and Choice that “At Google, we are keenly aware of the trust you place in us and our responsibility to protect your privacy. As part of this responsibility, we let you know what information we collect when you use our products and services, why we collect it and how we use it to improve your experience. The Privacy Center was created to provide you with easy-to-understand information about our products and policies to help you make more informed choices about which products you use, how to use them, and what information you provide to us”.
Brian Heater on PCMag comments as follows: “That whole ‘don’t be evil’ thing is all well and good, but when a company’s whole goal is cataloging the world’s information, it would–at the very least–be nice to know what Google knows about you. The company has just launched Dashboard, which aggregates the different information its gathered from 20 different Google products, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Web History, Orkut, YouTube, Picasa, Talk, Reader, Alerts, and Latitude. You’ll need to sign in to view your own personal information. Users can also edit account information from the page, such as privacy settings. Of course transparency doesn’t mean that you can’t still pat yourself on the back. The scale and level of detail of the Dashboard is unprecedented, and we’re delighted to be the first Internet company to offer this–and we hope it will become the standard,” Google said in a statement”.
So, will this actually make users realise exactly how much information and power they are giving Google, or will they consider that the benefits that they get from using Google’s services are worth it? Google’s financial success has been based on persuading people to give them information for free from which they can then generate huge revenue. This has undoubtedly been one of the biggest business success stories – or cons, depending on how one looks at it – in recent years. I watch with interest to see whether Google Dashboard will indeed persuade users that the company is as ‘innocent’ as it would like to appear to be.