[qi:058] Updated: In yet another attempt to help folks feel that Google is a warm and friendly repository for all of their data, the company is offering a chance to see everything it knows about you all in one place called Google Dashboard. Except that much of this was already available before to people who viewed their web history on Google (something I do when trying to grab maps that I look up often). But now the company has put this all in a Dashboard and made it easier for everyone to find it.
The resulting dashboard for me wasn’t anything I didn’t already know. What’s scariest about Google isn’t the fact that it has all my email, YouTube, Maps and web searches, but how it can farm that data to discover more about me (and how long it keeps it). People know they have Gmail accounts — what they don’t know is which Google demographics are sold to advertisers based on that history.
The other thing that hit me, was now anyone from my husband to a police officer could easily get through to this (they would need my password, but if I have it set to stay logged in, they don’t even need that) and see a quick history of anything I’ve done on Google, from individual emails to places I’ve mapped. Update: Google emailed me to say that my experience being able to log back in again without a password was misleading. The service actually logs the user out after an unspecified amount of time, which means someone can’t get in after that period of time without re-entering a password.
I’m not particularly ashamed by any of my information, but others may not want their digital footprints so easily accessed. It used to take a search warrant and your hard drive, or even a subpoena to an ISP, to get access to damning computer data (unless you bring it in for repairs). Now all it takes is an unguarded laptop and Google Dashboard. I suggest that Google at least force you to log in each and every time you want to access it. That way folks would at least have to ask you before getting your data.