We all know Google pretty well at this point: the behemoth of the search engine and free e-mail universe. Then of course there’s Android, Google Docs, Google Reader, Google Buzz, Blogger (cough), Google Voice…hell, most of you probably already have a Google+ account by this point, right? But how many of you have ever laid eyes on your Google Dashboard page…?
Yes, you do have one. You may not have known that you do, but you do. It’s this lonely little link you’ll find at the bottom of the privacy settings of your Google account and it contains a significant wealth of information about pretty much everything you do online. Viewing it for the first time is probably going to shock you. You’ve been warned.
See, the normal folks without fancy liberal arts degrees and WordPress blogs probably don’t know this, but it’s scientifically proven that the feeling you get when you look at your Google dashboard for the first time is equivalent to the feeling you’d get from viewing the tape from a closed circuit camera that caught you shoplifting from a homeless shelter. Doesn’t matter who you are either. Mother Theresa probably wouldn’t have liked what she saw if she checked her Google dashboard. I bet you President Obama has never EVER checked his Google dashboard before making a public appearance either. The public wouldn’t appreciate that expression of shame and angst while he’s trying to tell us that our economy is looking up.
I was no exception when I viewed my own dashboard for the first time the other day. There in front of me was a history of everything I’ve ever done on Google’s watch. They have data on everything from the potentially embarrassing (YouTube viewing history) to the absolutely embarrassing (web search history), all laid out nicely for you to see. Sprinkled in there was my purchase history, e-mail history, location history, chat history (including who you contact the most) and a list of the all the trashy sites whose RSS feeds I subscribe to. And being that I’ve been a loyal user of Google’s FREE products for several years now, the data they have on me goes pretty far back…
Keep in mind that there wasn’t a single service that I wasn’t aware that I was using and equally aware that Google was collecting “anonymous” data from me pretty much 24/7. I’m also not complaining that all that information can be accessed all on one page. Hell, there probably wasn’t even much in there that I haven’t already admitted on this blog! I just didn’t need to be reminded in such a traumatic fashion, that’s all. So after a long survey of my own dashboard, where at some point my heart resumed its’ normal beating pattern, I swiftly closed the page….with no intentions on viewing it ever again. I then boogied on over to my account settings and changed my password about 5 times. You know, for good measure.
Don’t act like you didn’t do the same thing when you first saw your own dashboard though. No one likes people knowing that much of anything about them. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how trivial the information is; knowing that much about any one stranger so comprehensively is a surefire way to completely freak them out. If someone was to come up to me and tell me they could name every single stick of deodorant that I’ve purchased in the past 2 years, in order, I’d probably shove them really really hard and then run away, out of fear that they were secretly out to ruin me or something.
Here’s a trick. Do you really want to tell if your significant other really loves you? Ask them to let you spend 10 minutes in their Google dashboard. I’m being completely serious. Next time you’re with your pooh bear or sugar plum, look them dead in the face and say “hey babe, can I take a look at your Google dashboard for a sec? I think mine may be broken, some things aren’t showing up” and then watch their facial expression change. If he or she looks at you and says “…no.” then guess what: they love you more than anything else on this Earth. They love you so much they could never live with the thought of you bearing the burden of access to years and years of their Gchat convos and browsing history. They don’t want you stressing over what YouTube videos they were watching at 1 in the morning on a Wednesday. They care far too much about you to subject you to that. Trust me on this.
So do yourself a favor if you haven’t already done so. Go check your dashboard, but only once. And always remember: those who don’t study web history are doomed to repeat…edly explain to their sweetheart why they felt the need to Google “Two Girls, One Cup” more than once in their lifetime.
I can hear the lovely sound of passwords changing already.