News Analysis: With Google Dashboard, Google again finds itself in a no-win situation. In a utopian world, the search engine would be roundly praised for providing a window into the data users generate from using Google applications.
Yet whenever Google puts a foot forward, advertising its action using keywords like "transparency," "openness" and "privacy," the company opens itself to a hailstorm of criticism. And that's what has happened here, with some claiming Google collects too much data in Dashboard and others saying it doesn't provide enough.
Dashboard summarizes data from the Web services associated with a user's Google Account. Dashboard, which can be found here or under the Personal Setting section under My Account, will list how many Gmail conversations we have going, how many Google Docs we have, Google Calendar appointments and even Web history if we've enabled it.
This does not include information Google collects on us from its server logs, cookies and ads-and this is key; more on this later in the report.
Some bloggers complained that this is too much data put on one palette, made easily accessible to users or even legal eagles. GigaOm's Stacy Higginbotham noted:
""I'm not particularly ashamed by any of my information, but others may not want their digital footprints so easily accessed. It used to take a search warrant and your hard drive, or even a subpoena to an ISP, to get access to damning computer data (unless you bring it in for repairs). Now all it takes is an unguarded laptop and Google Dashboard.""
However, it's not as easy or accessible as some think. You need to be logged into your Google Account to access Dashboard, but when you click the Dashboard link from your account page, Google takes you to a second sign-in page, where it will ask you to enter your password again to ensure extra protection.
This is a nice gesture, but if someone knows your password, you're in a bind and that user will access your data. Perhaps Google can add a security question for the third step, but of course that would be walking the fine line between security and simplicity.