Google Dashboard Misses Transparency Mark

Google Dashboard search engine

Yes, the Google Dashboard provides a nice snapshot of what Google knows about me. That transparency is definitely a step in the right direction. But it dodges the most pressing transparency issue regarding user information: namely, who Google is sharing that information with or how Google itself is using the personal data of users to generate ad revenue or serve customized content.

The Google Dashboard compiles data on how often you use the various Google offerings, including Gmail, Calendar, YouTube, Docs, Web History, Picassa, Alerts and Talk.

What Google needs to do as part of the Google Dashboard is provide full transparency on how Google is using the data or sharing it with anyone else. Google should also provide a full opt-out for users that is front and center on the Dashboard.

Right now the Google Privacy Policy has enough holes in it to guarantee Google can use personal data in any way it pleases. Check out this passage from Google's privacy policy: "We may combine the information you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties in order to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services."

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Or how about this passage: "We provide such information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies or other trusted businesses or persons for the purpose of processing personal information on our behalf."

Remember the heat that Facebook got when it launched the "Beacon" feature that resulted in user personal data being shared with advertisers and "friends" on the social network?

Facebook apologized to users and then gave its millions of users a clear opt-in before sensitive data is passed on to advertisers or "friends" on the network.

Why does Google get a free pass? Google needs to go farther to protect user's privacy with full transparency on how Google itself or third parties are using the data in the Dashboard. Why not provide in the Dashboard a full accounting of how Google is using that personal data?

The Google Dashboard is nothing more than a bid to distract users from the real transparency issue that needs to be addressed once and for all by Google.