Google Releases Dashboard Privacy Tool

Ever wonder what information Google knows about you? With a click or two, now you can find out.

Google released a feature Thursday that lets users see and control data that
the Web giant has collected about them. Called Google Dashboard, the
service provides an online summary of a user’s Google files — Gmail,
Google Docs, Picasa photos and so on — by collecting pre-existing
privacy controls in one place.

Dashboard users can review and
delete recent Google searches, see recently opened and shared documents
and survey their interactions with other Google-powered sites such as
YouTube.

Google, which has come under fire from politicians and
privacy advocates for its data-collection practices, announced the
service with a blog post headlined, "Transparency, Choice and Control
— now complete with a Dashboard!"

"Over the past 11 years, Google has focused on building innovative products for our users," the company said in its official blog
on Thursday. "Today, with hundreds of millions of people using those
products around the world, we are very aware of the trust that you have
placed in us, and our responsibility to protect your privacy and data."

The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog,
which has been critical of the amount of personal data Google stores,
called the dashboard a small step in the right direction.

"If
Google really wanted to give users control over their privacy it would
give consumers the ability to be anonymous from the company and its
advertisers in crucial areas such as search data and online behavior,"
spokesman John M. Simpson said on the group’s Web site.

"The Dashboard
give the appearance of control without the actual ability to prevent
Google from tracking you and delivering you to its marketers."

Reviews
in the blogosphere Thursday appeared relatively muted for a feature
Google described as unprecedented in scale and level of detail.

"Sure,
it’s nice to have all these in one place, should you ever want to
review all your private information stored at Google at once, but
there’s nothing really new about this list," said Stan Schroeder, a
blogger at social media site Mashable. "Unfortunately, it’s also an unpleasant reminder of just how much data you’re giving out to Google."

Tech blogger Matt Asay, writing for CNET,
said most Google users won’t bother with Dashboard because people are
willing to sacrifice some Internet privacy in exchange for being able
to store and share information online.

"Dashboard
leaves Google in the prime position of being able to honestly say that
it doesn’t control user data, while still delivering increasingly
beneficial services based on that data," he wrote. "It will not change
the way that the vast majority of consumers use Google, but it just
might change the way they think about Google."

CNN.com’s Brandon Griggs contributed to this report.

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