Pop quiz, how many Google products do you use? Gmail, Docs, Reader, Alerts and oh – the search. If you are the slightest bit concerned about your privacy online, you must have wondered at one time or another about how that is too much information in hands of a single organization.
Of course it’s with Google and it is hard not to trust in them after all they do to honor your privacy. Another such attempt by Google is the new Google Dashboard that makes you feel a little bit safer about keeping the majority of your virtual life on their servers.
Here’s what Google Dashboard is all about:
The Google Dashboard gives you quick access to all kinds of information that Google knows about you. Accessible here, it requires you to re enter your password even if you are logged into your Google Account, because the Dashboard contains all kinds of information about you. Once you log in, a summary of the services you use and what Google knows about you through those services is presented.
The Dashboard tracks a number of Google Offerings including your profile data, web history, Gmail, Docs, Talk, Reader, Orkut, Calendar, Picasa, Youtube, Blogger, iGoogle, Contacts, Friend Connect, Voice, Custom Search engines, Mobile Sync, Health, Alerts and Tasks.
Other offerings like Analytics, App Engine, Bookmarks, Groups, Sites, Notebook, Page Creator, Webmaster tools and the latest addition Google Wave are not yet included in Google Dashboard.
Dashboard lets you know which data is private – that is visible to only you (and Google) and which is public – meaning you, your contacts or anyone can see those details (depending upon the context). Such shared and public items are marked with an icon and details are presented wherever applicable.
In addition to personal information, Dashboard also provides quick access to settings for any particular service you use. So you can easily change or share/unshare information from the Dashboard. Alongside are listed the various privacy policies of each letting you know how your personal information is stored and used.
The Google Dashboard is not the first effort from Google’s side to give you greater control over your personal information and data. There is also an Ads preference manager that addresses similar issues as well. To add on to that, Google has a special Data Liberation Front, a team that caters to, vaguely similar if not exactly, the same issues.
It is all about making it easy for users to switch. As an example you may love Google Docs right now, let’s say you don’t like it two years on, but you have a number of documents that are now sitting on Google’s servers. Ideally you should not be tied down into using Google docs just because you have your data on there. So Google Docs also offers an export as zip feature, that lets you export all your documents in one go.
Google is certainly leading the efforts in empowering users with an ability to have a greater say as to who can view their information and data and what can be done with it. Purists may find that it is a little too less a little too late and that Google can easily hide what they don’t want you to see. That they are giving you glasses to look through, but what if the glasses only show the brighter picture?
It would be interesting to know what you think of the issue. No doubt Google makes great products that makes us use them, but are we putting too much information about ourselves in their hands? Let us know your thoughts.