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Google releases Dashboard privacy tool

By Doug Gross, CNN
Google on Thursday released Dashboard, a feature that allows users to review data the company collects on them.
Google on Thursday released Dashboard, a feature that allows users to review data the company collects on them.
  • Google users can find data on themselves with new Dashboard feature
  • Under fire from privacy groups, Google calls the feature unprecedented
  • Advocacy group calls Dashboard a small step, says Google should do more
  • Blogosphere's reception muted; some say tool won't change how people use features

(CNN) -- Ever wonder what information Google knows about you? With a click or two, now you can find out.

Google released a feature Thursday that lets users see and control data that the Web giant has collected about them. Called Google Dashboard, the service provides an online summary of a user's Google files -- Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa photos and so on -- by collecting pre-existing privacy controls in one place.

Dashboard users can review and delete recent Google searches, see recently opened and shared documents and survey their interactions with other Google-powered sites such as YouTube.

Google, which has come under fire from politicians and privacy advocates for its data-collection practices, announced the service with a blog post headlined, "Transparency, Choice and Control -- now complete with a Dashboard!"

"Over the past 11 years, Google has focused on building innovative products for our users," the company said in its official blog on Thursday. "Today, with hundreds of millions of people using those products around the world, we are very aware of the trust that you have placed in us, and our responsibility to protect your privacy and data."

The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which has been critical of the amount of personal data Google stores, called the dashboard a small step in the right direction.

Video: Google is tracking you

"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," spokesman John M. Simpson said on the group's Web site.

"The Dashboard give the appearance of control without the actual ability to prevent Google from tracking you and delivering you to its marketers."

Reviews in the blogosphere Thursday appeared relatively muted for a feature Google described as unprecedented in scale and level of detail.

"Sure, it's nice to have all these in one place, should you ever want to review all your private information stored at Google at once, but there's nothing really new about this list," said Stan Schroeder, a blogger at social media site Mashable. "Unfortunately, it's also an unpleasant reminder of just how much data you're giving out to Google."

Tech blogger Matt Asay, writing for CNET, said most Google users won't bother with Dashboard because people are willing to sacrifice some Internet privacy in exchange for being able to store and share information online.

"Dashboard leaves Google in the prime position of being able to honestly say that it doesn't control user data, while still delivering increasingly beneficial services based on that data," he wrote. "It will not change the way that the vast majority of consumers use Google, but it just might change the way they think about Google."'s Brandon Griggs contributed to this report.