Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Google Users Now Able to View Stored Data in One Place

Posted by Amanda Walsh

After being here in Spain for nearly two months, it has been quite a change from my experiences last year. I want to update our PR Lawyer blog readers on some interesting happenings here in Spain.

Today, I read a post written by Miguel Helft on the Technology blog titled, “Bits” on NYTimes.com about a European privacy conference that was held last week in Spain. I found the post to be very interesting as it talks about a new service from Google, Google Dashboard. This new service brings together privacy information that Google holds for each user and puts it into one space.

User information was available before the release of Dashboard, but now Dashboard brings all of the information together in one easy-to-use place. Dashboard only holds information about services that require a log-in from users. For example, Google’s free email service, Gmail, account users can view the number of conversations in their inbox and see archived conversations. According to Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for trust and safety for Google, he notes that this service brings “more transparency and control” to its users.

Some praise the new service, siting it as a large step for Google, who may be following in the footsteps of Facebook in an effort to be more transparent with user information.

Others are not so convinced of the benefits of Dashboard. John Simpson, of Consumer Watchdog, a frequent critic of Google said, “Dashboard gives users the appearance of control over privacy, but does not really prevent Google from tracking users across the Web.”

I viewed my personal www.Google.com/dashboard account just a few minutes ago and I thought it was pretty neat to see all my accounts in one spot. However, I can understand the security risks this does present. If a hacker were to get their hands on someone’s account password they would automatically have access to their YouTube, their Picasa and Google Reader account information as well.

Let me explain a little about YouTube, Picasa and Google Reader. According to the Web site, “Picasa is free photo editing software from Google that makes your pictures look great.” You can post photos and share them with friends and family through the site. Another well-known Google subsidiary is YouTube. YouTube allows users to post and view videos for free. It’s a helpful video resource for just about anything from watching music videos to viewing how-to guides. Google Reader “is a tool for gathering, reading, and sharing all the interesting blogs and Web sites you read on the Web,” according to the Google.com/reader page. After you sign up, you are able to subscribe to an RSS feed or “Really Simple Syndication” feed on your favorite blogs. These feeds are the way Web sites and blogs are able to issue new content. The updated posts are sent to your Google Reader where they are kept all together in one space. Sometimes sites like this are called aggregators. It is a convenient and easy place to view all of the most up-to-date posts on your favorite blogs. I prefer the blog aggregator, Bloglines.
All of the services I described above and more will now be accessible by inputting your personal log-in information through Google Dashboard. After reading some comments on the post I can understand why people may be worried or unhappy about the new service.

On the other hand, I believe that anything that you put on the Internet can and will be viewed by others. From a PR standpoint, your public image shared on the Internet should always be maintained and presented in the utmost professional light.

I do not see Dashboard as a huge change from any other service Google offers. After all, the same information was available to be viewed online before and now the only difference is that it is all kept in one place for users. What are some of your opinions about this new service from Google?

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