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November 10, 2009

Consumer Watchdog Doesn't Like Google Dashboard Policies
By David Sims
TMCnet Contributing Editor

A watchdog barks: In a public service announcement, First Coffee offers the opinion of Consumer Watchdog that the new Google (News - Alert) Dashboard, touted by the Internet giant as offering users transparency, choice and control of user data stored by the company, "doesn't give consumers adequate control over protecting their information from Google's marketing machine."

Consumer Watchdog does credit Google for giving consumers a single place to go to manage data, but wants Google to give consumers "the ability to stop being tracked by the company and to delete information associated with their computer's IP address from the Google servers."

John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog, notes that "if Google really wanted to give users control over their privacy it would give consumers the ability to be anonymous from the company and its advertisers in crucial areas such as search data and online behavior."

What the Dashboard does, Simpson says, is "list all the information linked directly to your name, but what it doesn't do is let you know and control the data directly tied to your computer's IP address, which is Google's black box and data mine."

Recommended instead by Consumer Watchdog is a "Make-me-anonymous" or "Don't track" button or icon on its home page, or at the very least in its Dashboard, to let the user choose to keep search information from being logged.

Consumer Watchdog officials acknowledge that the new feature does give users an eye-opening look at how much data Google collects, but contend it "still gives no explanation of how it uses the data it has accumulated. Moreover, Dashboard does not give the user any ability prevent search information from being logged or to prevent Google from tracking a user's online activity while surfing the Web."

Back in February TMC had the news that Google "made good on a promise to keep its customers better informed of service outages by introducing a new dashboard for Google Apps."

The feature "comes just two days after Gmail went down for a couple of hours worldwide due to a coding problem, although Google said last year it would make more efforts to inform customers after several Gmail outages last August."

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Patrick Barnard


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