Google’s extensive data collection and user tracking practices have often put it at odds with the privacy community in recent years.
So the company’s launch this week of a new Web dashboard that makes it easier for users to control the personal information that Google gathers about them is likely to come as a pleasant surprise to many privacy advocates.
The dashboard is called My Account, and it basically offers users a single location for managing login and privacy settings for all their Google accounts. My Account allows users to set and reset passwords and access settings to their Google accounts.
It allows users to manage how visible (or not) they are to others and to adjust or specify the type of ads they are willing to receive from Google in exchange for free service.
Users will continue to receive ads from Google even after they opt out. But the advertisements will not be as targeted as before, Google said in an official description of My Account. The portal also offers options for users to manage their language settings along with their inputs, and to copy or move personal data from Google accounts.
“My Account gives you quick access to the settings and tools that help you safeguard your data, protect your privacy, and decide what information is used to make Google services work better for you,” said Guemmy Kim, product manager, accounts control and settings at Google. “It also provides more context to help you understand your options and make the right choices for you.”
In addition to enabling better control of personal data, My Account gives users the option of taking a privacy checkup and a security checkup. It lets them manage how information from Google Search, YouTube, Maps and other products is used for targeted ad delivery purposes.
“For example, you can turn on and off settings such as Web and App Activity, which gets you more relevant, faster search results,” Kim said.
In addition to the My Account hub, Google also launched a new site that more explicitly spells out what data Google collects, what it does with all the data it collects and the options that users have for managing their data.
The site explains how Google delivers targeted ads to users without ever selling personal information to third parties, and how the company deploys technologies like encryption and spam filtering to keep personal data safe.
Social media giant Facebook has a similar Privacy Checkup Webpage where users can review and adjust their privacy settings, review who sees their Facebook posts and keep an eye on who can see their profile information like email address and phone number.
Just last week Facebook began testing a new Security Checkup page that will eventually let users accomplish tasks like resetting their password, turning on login alerts and cleaning up login sessions relatively easily by clicking through screen prompts, according to the company.
“Based on feedback, we hope to make Security Checkup available more broadly and whenever you want to use it,” Facebook said in a statement.