Google Dashboard Gives You a Degree of Control
I had to go through my calendar settings one by one until I identified the culprit (which, fortunately, was one I never use for personal info). Had Google really wanted to enhance "transparency, choice, and control" they would have made this a one-click operation.
Similarly, for people who were appalled to discover just how deeply Google was embedded in their lives -- quite a few of them, judging from the blog chatter -- there's no easy way to simply unsubscribe from these services. I have an Orkut profile I set up once for research purposes and never used again. How do I get rid of it? I still can't figure that one out.
Or, once I finally do figure out how to kill one of my Google accounts, what happens to the information associated with it? Does Google keep it? And if so, for how long?
Then there's all the info Google isn't sharing on the Dashboard. As AllThingsD's John Paczkowski notes:
Noticeably absent from Dashboard is any view of the cookie data Google uses to target ads. Essentially, all Dashboard does is consolidate the admin pages of the services associated with a user’s account in a single place. Convenient, yes. But does it tell us anything we didn’t already know? Or, more importantly, how Google is using that information? No.
The day Google tells me how it's using my information to make money -- and gives me the opportunity to say thanks but no thanks -- is the day I believe Google is really interested in "transparency, choice, and control."
Meanwhile, as PC World's Tony Bradley notes, gathering all this info in one tidy spot makes it easier for anyone who's hacked your Google account to dip his slimy fingers into the corners of your life like a biscotti into a venti latte.
And then there's the possibility of Google screwing up and sharing this info with the wrong people, as it did earlier this year with Google Docs. Following that breach, the Electronic Privacy Information Center called upon the FTC to investigate the security of Google services that collect data (which is to say, pretty much all of them).
Is Google Dashboard a step in the right direction? Sure. But that's all it is. If anything, its greatest value is in demonstrating just how dependent many of us have become on our G-benefactors.
The day Google decides to go all in with Satan and use its powers for evil, we're screwed. Even if the company remains well intentioned, it also has to be extremely competent.
So the big issue still remains: Can we really trust these guys?