Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot Privacy Dashboard, so hot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason Privacy Dashboard
Should ever be forgot.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist, this being Guy Fawkes day (a major traditional holiday for Britons and, more recently, geeky American libertarians such as myself, who dress up as V for Vendetta for Halloween). Google’s announcement of its Privacy Dashboard (TechCrunch) is a major step forward in both informing users about what data Google has tied to their account in each of Google’s many products and in empowering users to easily manage their privacy settings for each product. If users decide they’d rather “take their ball and go home,” they can do that, too, by simply deleting their data.
Users can access the dashboard at www.google.com/dashboard (duh). Or, from the Google homepage, you just have to:
- Click on Settings at the top right > Google Account Settings
- Click on “View data stored with this account” next to “Dashboard”
Once you log-in (for extra security), you can:
- See what data is associated with your account in 23 of Google’s products (Google notes that it will incorporate its 18 other products in the near future).
- Directly access the privacy management settings for that account.
- Access more information—”Links to relevant help articles and information pages.”
Some critics have complained in the past that it’s too hard to find privacy settings links on Google and other sites. Indeed, Google could have made it easier—and now they have! Google has taken another major step forward in user education and empowerment—just as it pioneered transparency into its interest-based advertising product with the Ad Preference Manager launched in March (which I applauded here). (The Dashboard is only for data tied to a user’s Google account, while the APM is tied only to a cookie on the user’s computer.)
The Dashboard really couldn’t be much easier to use—yet we can be sure it won’t be good enough for some privacy zealots who arrogantly presume that their fellow homo sapiens are basically vegetables with hair—unable to use any tool online, no matter how simple, and barely able to tie their own shoelaces without government reminding them how. The principled alternative is to “Trust People & Empower Them.” Because privacy is so profoundly subjective and because there is an inherent trade-off between clamping down on data and the many benefits enjoyed by Internet users from sharing their data, Adam Thierer and I have argued for that “household standards” set by individuals should trump “community standards” imposed on everyone from above: Continue reading →