-Google Oversells Privacy Dashboard.

Posted: November 5, 2009 in 2009, Articles
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What Google Dashboard doesn’t provide is any opportunity to view or control the type of user data that privacy advocates care about. By design, the product only stores information tied to a Google Account, which is linked to people’s user names.


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Google today breathlessly announced the launch of its new Dashboard, which lets users see all of the information associated with their Google Account.”Transparency, choice and control have become a key part of Google’s philosophy, and today, we’re happy to announce that we’re doing even more,” the company boasts, in what is one of the biggest overstatements it’s ever made.

Google Dashboard lets users view information about their use of Gmail, Blogger, YouTube, Picasa and other similar Google offerings in one place. But all of this data has always been readily available to users.

What Google Dashboard doesn’t provide is any opportunity to view or control the type of user data that privacy advocates care about. By design, the product only stores information tied to a Google Account, which is linked to people’s user names.

But Google collects far more data about users than what it links to their account names. For instance, Google also stores server logs of search queries and the IP addresses they originated from. That information might not be linked to a Google Account, but can nonetheless be used to identify users.

Google also collects data used for behavioral advertising. While the company allows users to view and control the categories of ads they receive, it doesn’t show them the raw data that’s used to compile the categories.

The new privacy dashboard probably won’t do anything to hurt Google’s reputation. But if the company thinks this product will satisfy privacy advocates, it has badly miscalculated.

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