Google’s Schmidt: “Because we say so” on why you can trust Google’s Privacy Dashboard

November 6, 2009

In discussing Google’s new “Privacy Dashboard,” Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the ability to delete private information.

  • Mr. Cavuto: “How do I know you are deleting it?
  • Mr. Schmidt: “Because we say so.”

Not being one to accept Google’s legendary PR spin without a grain of skepticism, lets review the real significance of Google’s new “Privacy Dashboard.”

First, to be fair to Google, the privacy dashboard is indeed an incremental improvement over what Google users had before, because it aggregates what was in 21 different places before, into a single more convenient “dashboard.”

  • However, Google overhyped the enhanced convenience and control of this single dashboard, because users still have to use the same 21 different steering wheels and brakes they had available before, in order to control Google’s multi-directional invasion of their privacy.

Second, this “dashboard” was exceptionally easy for Google to produce. All it basically does is insert a new front-end web navigation page — to more easily find other existing Google webpages — much like any website home page offers navigation to pages behind it.

  • I doubt any programmer or developer worth his/her salt would consider the task involved in producing this privacy dashboard anything but routine and pedestrian.

Third, Google completely left out of the dashboard, both the lions share of the private information that Google collects and the most intimate private information that Google collects: i.e. their search, click, and surfing histories which indicate what they want, value, read, and view.

  • So it would be kind of like a limited dashboard that only lets one drive in a small restricted area or for only a few hours a day.

Lastly, Google has cleverly “solved” the problem for users the way Google defines the problem. Google clearly is saying all the right “words” that users want to hear: “transparency,” “choice” and “control.”

  • However, this PR misdirection conveniently allows Google to assume that people want to customize their privacy settings on the 21 Google products and services, or in other words only protect their privacy in some apps and not protect it in others.
  • Common sense tells anyone who thinks about this that if a user cares enough to protect their privacy in one of the 21 different areas, they would most likely want to protect their privacy in all 21+ areas.
  • As John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog pointed out in his critique of the dashboard: “…Google should offer a simple “Make-me-anonymous” or “Don’t track” button or icon on its home page, or at the very least in its Dashboard…

In sum, Google users who care about protecting their privacy are not looking for one single dashboard to see all the private information that is being collected on them, but are looking for one single brake to put a stop to Google’s open-ended collection of private information on them.

  • True privacy control for Google users would be having a transparent, choice to control their private information as simply and efficiently as Google’s home page organizes search.

 

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