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Google's new Dashboard service lets users see what personal data are on file

The Dashboard is the Internet search giant's response to questions about how it uses information about consumers.

November 06, 2009|David Sarno

Google Inc. on Thursday unveiled a new Web page that allows users to better see which of their data are being stored by the Internet search giant.

Its Dashboard service is Google's attempt to respond to questions about how it uses consumer data and whether users have enough access to and control of information they have on programs such as Gmail, YouTube and Google Docs, the company's word-processing and spreadsheet software.

"We think of this as a great step toward giving people transparency and control over their data, and we hope this helps shape the way the industry thinks about these issues," Alma Whitten, a Google engineer who works on privacy and security, said in a statement.

But rather than offering users better access to, or control of, the data Google stores for them, the Dashboard does little more than consolidate existing controls that were scattered across different services.

And though much of the concern about Google's use of data revolves around precisely how and what the company does to analyze and profit from user information, the Dashboard offers little insight into those domains. It does not specify which services retain user data, or for how long. Neither does it make clear to users that, for instance, their Web search histories and e-mails are constantly scanned for the purposes of selling products to them and others.

But users should expect that their data could be used for advertising, Google said.

"To most folks, I think that there is a general expectation that even when we launch a product that doesn't have a clear business model associated with it, there's a possibility that advertising could be associated in some way," said Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google's business product manager for trust and safety.

Google said that it would continue to add features to the Dashboard, and that services not included -- Analytics, AdWords, AdSense and Book Search among others -- would be added in later versions.

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david.sarno@latimes.com

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