"If we went into an “evil room” and had an “evil light” shined on us, and we then behaved in an “evil” way we would be destroyed… there is a fundamental trust between Google and its users.”
~Eric Schmidt, Google CEO
Google released an exciting new product today called the Dashboard. I don't usually call Google products exciting because it makes me sound like I'm writing their marketing literature, but the Dashboard provides a way to see an overview of all your activity across every Google product you use. And if you're like me, that's a lot. Instead of guessing what information Google has, you can now see it all in one convenient place.
Getting To The Dashboard
Accessing the dashboard is a simple matter. Follow these steps:
- Go to Google.com.
- Click Settings > Google Account Settings and your account page opens.
- At the top of the page in the right column labeled Personal Settings, click View Data Stored with Account (next to the Dashboard label). The Google Accounts page opens with all of the information across each of your Google accounts.
Why It's Great
I always loved that quote at the top of this post from Google CEO, Eric Schmidt above. It suggests that for some reason we should just trust Google with our data. It's an absurd notion of course, and even more so in that ridiculous quote, but Google Dashboard is a good first step. It gives users a one-stop shop to see all of their data and settings.
As individuals interested in accessing and understanding data, this is a huge step forward. For businesses, it's even more important, especially from a regulatory and compliance point of view. It gives everyone, big or small, access to their data in a simple fashion, which is as it should be.
Google's Free Tools Are Attractive and Scary
When I saw Marissa Mayer's presentation recently on the Google's new social search, one thing jumped out at me. You have to give Google information about your social networks in order for the search engine to display social search results. This seemed like a huge thing to ask users, and it goes directly to the heart of the problem many people have with Google. Yes, the tools are wonderful and free and available wherever you go, but any thinking person has to wonder about the portfolio of information that Google has on each of us -- our mail, our search history, what we read and the pictures we take, the videos we watch and the ones we add, and on and on it goes. And the social search would mean Google would have access to our friends too (whom we associate with).
All of this is a bit scary, so you'll have to pardon me if I don't trust Eric Schmidt's assertion that they won't ever step into that "evil room." But for starters, the Dashboard at least gives us insight into what information that Google has on us its databases, and gives us the opportunity to change our privacy settings and to delete services we don't want anymore. It may not be a panacea for paranoia, but it's a start, and I'll take it.