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October 17, 2010

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Google Dashboard - How Much Does Google Know About You?

Google Dashboard

Scoroncocolo, Scoroncocolo Tech Pages, ScarewareGoogle Dashboard can help you to understand how much of your personal information is being stored on Google's servers.

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Google Dashboard Shows You How Much You're Sharing With Google

In November of 2009, Google launched Google Dashboard. If you have a Google account, whether you know it or not, since November of 2009 Google has been providing you with a means of determining how personal information you are sharing with them through a very well organized Webpage called Google Dashboard. Google Dashboard can tell you how much of your personal information you are allowing Google to retrieve and store on their servers. It also allows you to change many of your privacy settings for various Google services you may be using like Gmail, Picasa Web Albums, Google Docs, Google Calander as well all of the other google services you may be using. More succinctly, Google Dashboard consolidates all of your Google account information and settings for all of the Google products you use and allows you to view all of them on a single page.

You can access your Google Dashboard by signing in to your Google account and clicking on "settings" at Google's Website at and then selecting "Google Account Settings". If you have an iGoogle page, you can click on "My Account" and get to your Google Dashboard that way. Or you can follow this link to Google Dashboard and once you're there you might want to bookmark it. This link will lead you to your Google Account page where you can select "View data stored with this account" that you will see under "Personal Settings." You can also get to your Dashboard just by simply typing "" into any modern Web browser. No matter how you choose to get there, somewhere along the way Google will ask you for your Google account password because the Dashboard is a very sensitive page with a lot of your personal information stored on it and since most people with Google accounts stay logged into those accounts pretty much 24/7 Google always asks for a password before allowing anyone using your computer to gain access to your Google Dashboard.

How Much Does Google Know About You?

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Google Dashboard

At the top of the Dashboard page on the left-hand side you'll see Account. Beneath that you'll see your name, your nick name and the email address or addresses associated with your account. if you want to make any changes to what you see, click on "Edit personal information" on the right side of the top portion of the page.

Just beneath your personal information under Account you'll see a link that reads: "Websites authorized to access the account". Clicking this link will give you access to some of the most important information that Google Dashboard has to share with you, namely: Who you have voluntarily, involuntarily or inadvertently given access to information in your Google account. So if you have a Google account, being able to determine who besides yourself has access to information in your account is reason enough to become acquainted with your Google Dashboard.

Below Account on the left-hand side of the page, Google lists almost all of its services and gives you a link to your affiliation to those services. For instance it you have photos in Picasa Web Albums, Google Dashboard gives you links to the photos you've chosen to make public and then a link to the Albums you have placed on their servers. It offers to help you remember the most recent pics you have sent up. And lastly, it gives you a link to your Web Albums home page. Dashboard also tells you how many of your pictures are placed in your public folder and how many are in private folders. It gives you a reasonably good amount of information about what and how you are sharing or not sharing with the outside world in regard to this particular Google service.

Dashboard uses a small icon to indicate to you whether your personal information is public or not. The icon looks like a small blue huddle of three persons with their backs turned to you.

There is a lot to love about Google Dashboard. It's simplicity of use is certainly one of them. It's easy to understand and it seems to have been intuitively designed to actually be helpful to those of us who use Google's services. I recently posted an article on this blog on How to Lock Down Your Facebook Account" in which, among other things, I pointed out how unnecessarily complex it is to secure your privacy on Facebook. Compared with the obviously, purposefully convoluted way that Facebook pretends to help us determine how much personal information we are sharing with them, Google Dashboard is the definition of simplicity. Google allows us to use Google Dashboard to see precisely what information we are sharing with Google and to alter our settings and in almost all cases it allows us to take down anything we want wiped from Google's servers. Microsoft, by the way, has a Microsoft All Services list that is not nearly as insightful nor as interactive as Google Dashboard but well worth looking into if you are using any of Microsoft's services like SkyDrive or Instant Messenger (IM).

While Google Dashboard does not include information collected via cookies and it doesn't help us understand the information Google gathers using tracking scripts like DoubleClick, we should be mindful that Dashboard is a relatively new Google service - less than a year old as of the publishing of this article and that Google is constantly working to improve Google Dashboard.

More About Google Dashboard

Recently I put up a post on this site about Google Web History that delved into the subject of how much information on our Web browsing history all of us who have a Google accounts are sharing with Google. But the truth is we who have Google accounts are sharing a lot more of our personal information with Google than just the search queries we make on Google's Website. Google collects information on just about everything we do while we are logged into one of their services like Gmail or Picasa Web Albums or even YouTube, if we watch YouTube while we are logged into our Google account. But then Google is a company that for the twelve years of their existence has been engaged in compiling information. That's what Google does and they do it very, very well. But much to their credit, Google, with Google Dashboard, offers us an opportunity to examine all of the information Google is collecting about us and even offers us a way to alter the amount and manner in which that information is collected and made publicly available.

Back in March of this year (2010), Google added a very cool and useful feature to Gmail that warns you about suspicious activity on your Gmail account that might indicate that someone had hacked your Gmail account. This new Google Gmail feature checks the location of your IP address against any other logins on your account. If you log in from New York, and 30 minutes later someone logs in to your account from San Francisco, that looks more than a little suspicious and so an alert is produced on Google's servers and you will see that alert posted at the top of your Gmail page. In July of this year the same functionality was offered to us on Google Dashboard. By that I mean that now Google will show you a warning on the top of your Google Dashboard page if your dashboard page has been accessed two or more times from geo-locations during a time period that looks suspicious. If this warning appears on your Gmail page or your Dashboard page, go to your Google Dashboard page and change your Google account password immediately. It's comforting to know that unlike some Web giants like Facebook, Google seems to really be trying to help us use their products in a manner that ensures our safety and privacy.

If you have a Gmail account which means you are using one or more of Google's many wonderful online services, I urge you to click this link to your Google Dashboard page and familiarize yourself with Google Dashboard. You'll find it informative, comforting and empowering when you realize how much control you have over the information you are sharing with Google.

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