Dashboard Does Not List All Our Info

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-11-07 Print this article Print

Lance Ulanoff of PC Magazine opined about the legal ramifications of Dashboard:

"I could envision a scenario in which a prosecutor subpoenas Google for this information. Anyone's search history could indicate certain predilections. But Google's vast store of people knowledge goes way beyond search."

It has so many services and such a huge user base that it's safe to say that Google may know more about you than virtually any other online service provider (to be fair, if Microsoft or Yahoo had a similar service, we might see some of the same detail). Google knows what people searched for, their shopping habits, who they talked to (Google Voice), where they are (Latitude)-and the list goes on and on. Dashboard takes all this disparate information and weaves it into a sort of living diary.

But this ignores a crucial point. Dashboard or not, lawyers can still get at the data if they really wanted to. Dashboard does not collect any new or unique data-it all existed somewhere on Google's servers. It's just a snap to find it now because it's aggregated.

Then there is the camp that doesn't think Google put all the data it could have put on the Dashboard. LA Times' David Sarno wrote:

"And though much of the concern about Google's use of data revolves around precisely how and what the company does to analyze and profit from user information, the Dashboard offers little insight into those domains. It does not specify which services retain user data, or for how long. Neither does it make clear to users that, for instance, their Web search histories and e-mails are constantly scanned for the purposes of selling products to them and others."

The data Sarno referred to includes info Google collects on us from its server logs, which includes Web request, IP address, browser type, browser language, and the date and time of the request. Dashboard also doesn't include our cookie info, or digital preferences, or interest-based ads that Google puts in front of us based on our search queries. These are also known as behavioral ads.

Google said this data is intentionally kept separate from our Google Account and thus is not visible on Dashboard to protect our privacy.

But some seem to think that if Google is going to offer a Dashboard, it should go all in-that instead of just aggregating innocuous Google Apps data, Google should also serve up the server log data, cookie info and behavioral ad info.  

Indeed, privacy advocates, such as John Simpson of Consumer Advocate, argued that Google's gesture with Dashboard was just a straw man and that if the company really wanted to help, it would allow users to prevent search information from being logged or to prevent Google from tracking a user's online activity while surfing the Web. Simpson said:

"What the Dashboard does is list all the information linked directly to your name, but what it doesn't do is let you know and control the data directly tied to your computer's IP address, which is Google's black box and data mine. Google isn't truly protecting privacy until it lets you control that information."

What camp are you in? Does Dashboard serve up too much info from one spot, or too little?



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