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Google Privacy Your Rights Online

Dashboard Reveals What Google Knows About You 260

Posted by timothy
from the born-4th-nov-8lbs-20-inches-smart dept.
CWmike writes "Ever wonder exactly what Google knows about you? Google took a step today to answer that question with the unveiling of Google Dashboard, which is designed to let users see and control the copious amounts of data that Google has stored in its servers about them. 'Over the past 11 years, Google has focused on building innovative products for our users. Today, with hundreds of millions of people using those products around the world, we are very aware of the trust that you have placed in us, and our responsibility to protect your privacy and data,' Google said in a blog post today. 'In an effort to provide you with greater transparency and control over their own data, we've built the Google Dashboard.' Dashboard is set up so that users can control the personal settings in each Google product that they use. Google said the tool supports more than 20 products, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Web History, YouTube, Picasa, Talk, Reader, Alerts and Google Latitude. Consumer Watchdog said in a statement today that it applauds Google for giving users a single place to go to manage their data. But at the same tine, the group also came down hard on Google, contending that it needs to give users a vehicle for stopping the company from collecting any personal data."
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Dashboard Reveals What Google Knows About You

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  • by syousef (465911) on Friday November 06, 2009 @12:50AM (#30003248) Journal

    Their dashboard simply reveals what they want you to know you keep.

    Love or hate Google it would be naive to think otherwise.

    • Of course. In reality, Google probably knows everything about you already. Most people don't seem to mind, but it's still taboo for some reason for Google to come out and say it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by twostix (1277166)

      Even so, just looking at what's there, all in one place there's only one word for it faaaaaark.

      It's like a time machine where I can look into my life for the last 3 and half years and see what my state of mind was at any point in time.

      Sometimes it was not pretty, things we forget over time ey?

      Also at what point did the search tracking automatically become opt-in? Last I heard it was only voluntary when did they sneak that change through?

    • by Sam Douglas (1106539) <sam.douglas32@gmail.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @02:14AM (#30003564) Homepage
      No, its real utility is seeing what is publicly accessible. I didn't realise my Youtube account was sharing my name (username), age and gender publicly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        >>>my Youtube account was sharing my name (username)

        Which one? The good news is that if you're over age 35, the advertisers ignore you. They are only interested in the young malleable people (seriously) who are easily-convinced to try new products. The rest of us are old and set in our ways, and therefore of little interest to advertisers.

  • by t33jster (1239616) on Friday November 06, 2009 @12:56AM (#30003260)

    the group also came down hard on Google, contending that it needs to give users a vehicle for stopping the company from collecting any personal data.

    1. I'm going to patent 'not using a company's products and services' in order to prevent them from collecting data.
    2. License my fantastic invention
    3. Profit!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 06, 2009 @12:57AM (#30003268)
    I would say only about 5% of my Google searches are something that pertain to me. The rest are queries to answer questions others have asked, or nonsense searches triggered by external events - random words heard on the radio, items from junk mail my uncle sends, stuff from the newspaper.

    I clear my cache often, and often search for the equal and opposite of what I want to know about. Search for elder care, followed by kindergartens, then diabetes tests and discount candy bars.
  • Headline reads:
    Starbucks wifi user identity stolen when rogue AP steals dashboard info.
  • Mottos (Score:4, Funny)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:02AM (#30003290) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot: New for nerds, stuff that matters

    Google Dashboard: All your data are belong to us
  • Let's add a link. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:03AM (#30003296)
    Because it wasn't in the summary, https://www.google.com/dashboard/ [google.com] is Google Dashboard.
    • by Pete (big-pete) (253496) * <peter_endean@hotmail.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:32AM (#30003400)

      Well that's annoying...one thing Google doesn't do intelligently is languages. I am logged into my account, they KNOW I speak English as a preferred language, but when I go to my iGoogle [google.com] page on my iPhone whilst I'm in Belgium it insists on displaying everything in Dutch.

      That was annoying enough...but now the dashboard is doing the same, even when I visit the page from my laptop.

      Google, you KNOW I speak English, stop overriding my account setting for my language with demographic data based on my IP address. When I'm traveling it doesn't make me fluent in the local language...

      *slaps the company on the nose with a rolled up newspaper* Bad Google, bad bad portal!

      -- Pete.

      • by Nasarius (593729) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:42AM (#30003456)
        I know, this is total bullshit. I've been living in Germany for about 1.5 years now, I use an English-language browser, I've set everything I possibly can in Google to English, and it still constantly gives me random pages in German, like the OpenID login. What the fuck? Let me set my language in one place and then *keep it*, or recognize that if my user agent is in English, I probably want English. Overriding such things based on geography is astoundingly stupid, given the large number of travelers and expats in the world.

        Belgium must be a particularly strange example...do the Walloons get Dutch too?
        • Belgium must be a particularly strange example...do the Walloons get Dutch too?

          I have no idea what the Walloons get, but I actually live in Brussels, which is as multi-lingual as it gets, with both French and Dutch as official languages, but with a population that is statistically more likely to understand someone speaking English than any other language. And still Google thinks that Dutch (the minority language) is the best choice to use.

          -- Pete.

          • by Nasarius (593729) on Friday November 06, 2009 @02:02AM (#30003512)
            I can kind of excuse the crap job that Google has done with consolidating settings; lots of their apps were bought from other companies, and they're just starting to make the Google profile a significant thing. But what I absolutely do not get is why they (and pretty much every other website in the world) completely ignore the Accept-Language browser header, which is sent properly by every browser.

            It's such an obvious bit of information to use, it requires no IP-based geolocation, there must be some reason I'm not thinking of that they don't use it. Can anybody explain?
            • by LS (57954)

              A lot of people use browsers a languages other than their own, for instance at work or at an internet cafe. Also, there are governmental restrictions; for instance, I think that google is required to pop up the chinese version of their site in China. Also, what if you first used a service in a browser of one language, but then switched browser languages? Should the setting be based on your first session, your settings, or based on your browser?

              I get your point, it's a solvable problem, but not as simple as

              • by AlXtreme (223728)

                Should the setting be based on your first session, your settings, or based on your browser?

                I get your point, it's a solvable problem, but not as simple as it first appears.

                Determine the language based on the browser but allow the user to override and _make the user-defined settings permanent_.

                You still hit the problem of what to do when the user isn't logged in and doesn't have a session, but accept-languages should be your main clue, not geo-ip. Django's i18n gets the job done properly in this aspect.

            • by DamonHD (794830) <d@hd.org> on Friday November 06, 2009 @04:42AM (#30004008) Homepage

              Because my stats suggest that most people leave it set to a default of en-US, ie US English, so when Accept-Language has that in it it mainly means 'I left it the way Microsoft set it' rather than 'I speak US English'.

              It makes providing any internationalisation frustrating, since the browser mechanism doesn't help much.

              Rgds

              Damon

              PS. Conversely, if your 'Accept-Language' is set to anything other than English it's a pretty hot clue...

              • by rdnetto (955205)

                Perhaps try a different locale then - en-uk or en-au?

              • by darthflo (1095225) *

                Where'd you get that? Most setups I've encountered were pretty damn accurate since MSIE pulls it's Accept-Lang from Windows' locale which is the same thing that'll tell Excel how to format your numbers and the calendar how to display dates (and recommend a time zone at the install). Even in the few places where an english (instead of local language) version of Windows is used, they tend to get the locale setting right. In alternative browsers, Opera pulls it's setting from the system at it's installation, t

                • by DamonHD (794830)

                  I've so far 3 times resisted posting my latest stats but you're tempting me! B^>

                  Actually, it's less bleak now than it was even a couple of years ago IIRC, and I do see the sum total of (say) es+fr+de getting close to en, but historically 'en' from the browser has been extremely unreliable and uninformative, so G may simply be playing cautious.

                  I also note that I have nearly as many people explicitly requesting 'es' on my Web interface as have set their Accept-Language header, which suggests to me that a

        • I feel your pain.

          I am in Czechia. I have set my browser to specifically take preference in English language version. I am getting czech version. I am furious.

          Google insists on using czech version of interface (seriously, I Want English Interface.) and returning localized local results. (I Want Global Results).

          I want google.com, not redirected to google.cz. I specifically typed .com url, how hard it is NOT to redirect?

          I want top result for ubuntu search to be 'original' www.ubuntu.com not sucky www.ubuntu.cz

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by weeeeed (675324)

            1. Go to google.cz,
            2. klick on "Google.com in English" (http://www.google.com/ncr)
            3. ???
            4. Profit!!!1 (permanent cookie)

        • Solution (Score:5, Informative)

          by Teferison (1403841) on Friday November 06, 2009 @03:52AM (#30003836)
          Visit http://www.google.com/ncr [google.com] (no country redirect) and google will no longer use your geolocation to determine what pages you want to see.
          Cookies required
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bheer (633842)

          Google does appear to honor [google.com] the Accept-Language header setting (which you can set in Firefox [yfrog.com]).

          For example, I just set my Firefox language setting to "German [de]", cleared my cookies and visited google.com. Lo and behold, Google.com in German [yfrog.com]. Interestingly, it didn't auto-redirect me to Google UK -- I'm in England right now -- although there's a link to Google UK at the bottom.

          If you change browser settings like this, be sure to clear your cookies first -- sometimes existing cookies contain prefs about whi

        • by Gorath99 (746654)

          Don't get me started. It's ridiculous how even big multinationals (emphasis on multi and national) can't get such a simple thing right.

          Itunes on Windows is another good example. Originally it used Windows' "Location" setting, which is braindead, as location does not imply language. After much complaining about this on the Apple forums, they decided to fix it by having the user choose a language during installation. This is an improvement, but still idiotic, as they should have used Windows' "Language used i

      • by tknd (979052)

        They seem to base it on your IP address. When I was in Japan it would come up in Japanese and it was pretty annoying. But now that I'm back in the U.S. and I want to learn Japanese it will default to English.

        Eventually I figured out that you can set your homepage to "Google in English" instead of the plain google.com.

        But sometimes though when you switch areas on Google it goes back to guessing your language from your IP and defaulting to something else again.

      • by jrumney (197329)
        This is a problem that was solved in the very early days of the web with the "Accept-Language" header, which is supported by all browsers since at least Netscape 2.0.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by brentonboy (1067468)

        Wait... we're mad at Google for not keeping track of some personal data on you (language) and using it? I thought we were mad at Google because they *do* do that.

      • by Zarhan (415465)

        Umm. Allow cookies from google. Go to Search Settings. Set your language preferences. They stick.

        That's how I haven't seen Finnish version of Google except when browser sometimes decides to delete all cookies.

        • Umm. Allow cookies from google. Go to Search Settings. Set your language preferences. They stick. That's how I haven't seen Finnish version of Google except when browser sometimes decides to delete all cookies.

          Sure it sticks for the search page, unless your go to it from an iPhone, and it doesn't stick for some of their other pages...like the dashboard. I have had it set for a long time, but it really isn't used sometimes.

          -- Pete.

      • by SharpFang (651121)

        The most ironical thing would be using Google Translate to translate the Google services to your native language while you're traveling.

  • Now there's an easy tool provided by Google to identify what employees are doing with Google-related products while on the job. You didn't think anything you did on your work computer was your private information, did you?

  • WTF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BodeNGE (1664379)
    It's asking me to login. I don't have a login to Google "services". How do I see the info that Google has on my browsing history without logging in?
  • Window dressing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rpp3po (641313) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:18AM (#30003344)
    I would have expected Slashdot to note the fact, that Google does not mention anywhere wether the presented data is even nearly complete. Without that it is just a sham, giving you the feeling of control, but possibly only touching the tip of the iceberg.
    • Having seen what they say they have on me, two thoughts come to mind: Either they are being misleading and this is just the things they feel like telling me, or they are really incompetent because the stuff they say they know about me is pretty limited (and I'm a HEAVY Google user).

      Wonder which it is?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pwilli (1102893)
        Were you always logged into your account when you used Google? My web history contained almost everything I ever searched through Google for the last years. It only had "holes" for some weeks in between, when I e.g. started to use another computer to go online and didn't bother to check my E-Mails or do anything else that would need me to enter my credentials.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Having seen what they say they have on me, two thoughts come to mind: Either they are being misleading and this is just the things they feel like telling me, or they are really incompetent because the stuff they say they know about me is pretty limited (and I'm a HEAVY Google user).

        I don't work at Google, but I've interned there several times, and people on SlashDot just don't have a clue when talking about Google's approach to privacy. There's well over 100 teams all doing their own separate stuff, largel

    • At least it makes managing settings a bit easier.

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:27AM (#30003380)

    ...needs to give users a vehicle for stopping the company from collecting any personal data.

    Um.. It's a free service, and collecting user data (most of which is anonymized) is a core feature of their ad services. Why exactly does Google need to hobble its business model again?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      Just curious, has anyone ever presented any evidence that Google uses collected user data for their ad services?

      I mean, you state it as if it was a fact.. it's not.

      • by Dwedit (232252)

        Do a search, then do another search on another browser with a different cookie. You get very different ads.

      • Just curious, has anyone ever presented any evidence that Google uses collected user data for their ad services?

        I mean, you state it as if it was a fact.. it's not.

        Has anyone ever presented evidence that Google does not use collected user data for their ad services? Has anyone ever presented some other reason for Google to be collecting data?

        I suggest you remove your tinfoil hat. All it will do is focus the corporate and government mind waves and cause cranial injury.

        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          Has anyone ever presented evidence that Google does not use collected user data for their ad services?

          Assume people are out to get you until proven otherwise eh.

          Has anyone ever presented some other reason for Google to be collecting data?

          Ya, that's the other thing, got any evidence that they *do* collect data?

          I suggest you remove your tinfoil hat. All it will do is focus the corporate and government mind waves and cause cranial injury.

          Yup, that's me, requesting that people present evidence before making wild accusations, very tin foil.

          • wait wait wait wait wait

            Your post made it seem like you were a part of the tinfoil crowd by suggesting that they do not use collected user data for their ad services. But now it seems fairly clear that you are suggesting that they do not collect data of that sort at all. But that would be completely untrue because Google tells you and me and everybody that they DO collect data. Said data has been discussed time and time again in the news--on Slashdot, no less, and for you to suggest that they DON'T collect

            • by QuantumG (50515) *

              you are extremely ignorant or naive or stupid... so which one is it?

              Umm.. I'm asking YOU to present some evidence that they do before just assuming that everything you read about in the gossip rags is true.

              If you actually bother to read the article, or check out Google Dashboard, you'll discover that the personal information *they* are talking about is the stuff that *you* give them, voluntarily.. it's not some data mined facts from searches, it's stuff like your birth date and location. Now, *presumably* they give that stuff to advertisers, but I happen to be an advertise

    • by houghi (78078)

      Gazillions of users won't bother to turn things off, so to have a few geeks from /. do it is to show they play nice.

  • No one has to use google and when you chose to then you should be aware your data is going to be on their servers. Personally I do not enter personal information.

  • Bleedingly obvious? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:42AM (#30003454)

    But at the same tine, the group also came down hard on Google, contending that it needs to give users a vehicle for stopping the company from collecting any personal data.

    Don't login. Disable cookies. Any questions?

    • by houghi (78078)

      Don't login. Disable cookies. Any questions?

      Just one. Why is it that opt-out is never good, except when people are talking about Google?

    • by Virak (897071)

      Yes, just one. Do you think Google has never heard of IP addresses?

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Yeah... Do they log IP address for their searches ? Wouldn't it be illegal for them NOT to do it according to some stupid antiterrorist law ?
    • by rdnetto (955205)

      Alternatively, you could just use the Incognito mode in Google Chrome...

  • by Bifurcati (699683) on Friday November 06, 2009 @01:46AM (#30003468) Homepage
    Believe it or not, Google is a free service (for the most part) supported by advertising. I love the stuff that Google does, the way they handle advertising, and the way that advertising is actually (for the first time ever on the net) actually relevant. They've never done anything to earn my mistrust, far from it. So if by giving them my search histories I can improve both their overall advertising revenue and my own browsing experience, then I am more than willing to do so.

    If things ever go wrong, well, then I'll suffer the consequences. But people demanding Google stop collecting this information is just crazy talk. Yes, Google is fast becoming a necessity because of its sheer usefulness, but it's by no means crossed the line and doesn't look like it will. If you're really that worried - just don't use Gmail, Gcalendar or any of those other things. Your Google searches will still be reasonably anonymous!

    Honestly, it's rubbish like this that gives privacy advocates a bad name. Fight a battle worth fighting, for cryin' out loud.

    • by zwei2stein (782480) on Friday November 06, 2009 @02:34AM (#30003626) Homepage

      You can love google and still be worried.

      Mostly because while they had no personal info leaks in past, it does not necessarily have to be so in future. You can trust google and appreciate that they use your personal info to make your web experience less painful, but you can not trust anyone who gets their dirty hands of their database...

      So yeah, real concern is in there. Especially that google becomes juicier and juicier target each day.

      • by Bifurcati (699683)
        Agreed - if Google were hacked, well, that's bad. But the same goes for anything I store on my personal computer. And while Google's a much more likely target than my lonely IP address, they're also a hundred times better equipped to come with those attacks than I am, despite my moderate geek status.

        The concern is there, but the difference is that I acknowledge and accept it. These guys are calling for the destruction of Google, which, to me, is a disproportionate response.

  • by story645 (1278106) <story645@gmail.com> on Friday November 06, 2009 @02:02AM (#30003520) Journal

    I learned that a youtube account was registered using my email address, and that I could access the account with my gmail account. So dashboard forced me to change my email address and try to navigate youtube's awful (non-existent) reporting pages. I finally got the right page by sending an email to the wrong people. Otherwise, dashboard showed the existence of things that clicking didn't show up, and the whole thing comes across as a gimmick to get people to sign up for the google services they're not already signed up for.

  • by seifried (12921) on Friday November 06, 2009 @02:21AM (#30003584) Homepage

    3 links, not a single one to the actual dashboard.

    http://www.google.com/dashboard [google.com]

  • I just logged in and looked at it. It seems like a very nice feature. I found it amusing that you can "remove" information.
    Since none of my recent web searches are listed, the Dashboard appears to only keep track of your activity while you are logged in. Obvious, but still interesting.
    I imagine most searches can be identified by an IP address. Google must keep track of that too. Linking it together seem trivial.
    So the question remains: Is it real control or just the illusion of control? I guess only time wi

  • "But at the same tine, the group also came down hard on Google, contending that it needs to give users a vehicle for stopping the company from collecting any personal data."

    How about you don't use their services if you have a problem with their policy? Or don't give out (valid) personal details. How hard was that? One thing i do have to agree with is the automatic adding of contacts to my address book in GMail.

  • I've used TrackmeNot [nyu.edu] for a long time, and today I can see why that's been a great idea!
  • between googlemail, google calendar, google voice, igoogle, google lattitude, google talk and who knows what else, there is no getting around it. They know everything about me.
  • If you haven't noticed, Google is building a social network strategy across its properties. Chat, Reader, Followers, Friends, Voice, Public Profiles, Blogger etc etc. All of these are just starting to link into one another. As opposed to to the download and spam your email address book model a la facebook, it has been a very quiet and light touch adoption path. This is just another step towards gaining user's trust and therefore adoption.
  • 'In an effort to provide you with greater transparency and control over their own data, we've built the Google Dashboard.'

    So I get to control other users' data? Yay. Does that make me part of Google? :P

  • Properly done, it's clear, that this should be opt-in at the creation of the account. And not only the option of making it public. But also the option of storing it on a computer you don't own in the first place.

    Everything else should be illegal and get you into PMITA prison.

    That model is already law for "please give my data to third parties" and "please send me spam" options in account creation forms in Germany. It should be law for all other data storage as well.

  • There really wasn't much information in my search history that can't be found in other ways:

    • Apparently i search much for function documentation for different programming languages : I study computer science
    • I'm politically interested in filesharing (search for arguments for and against stuff and visited piratpartiet.se ) : I'm publicly a member of the pirate party
    • I watch a nonzero amount of porn : I'm a man

    I've only looked through a few months of my search history and it was pretty interesting to see what i

  • The very essence of Google is to be a service that uses information it gathers about you to connect you to the people that you want. If you don't want that service, then don't use Google. How's that? The reason I say that is, many of us don't really care about the collection of personal data, and making Google jump through hoops to do what you want undermines the services that we want.

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