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Google's 'Dashboard' allows users some insight into which data the company stores

Dashboard

Google has unveiled its 'Google Dashboard' service, a page where users can get a sense of the data the company stores about them in any of 23 different Google-run services. 

As questions about how the company uses consumer data continue to mount, Google has tried to answer those concerns by allowing users a clearer view into how their data is stored and used by programs like Gmail, YouTube and Google Docs.

"We think of this as a great step towards 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.

The Dashboard is essentially a page listing each service that stores data, along with which types of data it stores. Rather than allowing users to control and edit their data directly from the page, however, Dashboard refers users to other pre-existing settings pages. In that sense, the Dashboard is a consolidation of existing functions, not a new set of tools by which users can control their data.

And though much of the concern about Google's data storage 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 keep user data, or for how long. Neither does it alert 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 most or all of 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 & Safety.

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

-- David Sarno

 
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