Google is considering introducing a "privacy dashboard" after the storm of controversy that has greeted its data-retention policies.
A controversial report by the group Privacy International recently slammed Google over its "aggressive use of invasive or potentially invasive technologies" and the amount of user data it gathers and retains, while the European Union is asking why the search giant needs to hang on to users' data for 18 to 24 months.
The journalist and blogger John Battelle — co-founder of Wired magazine and author of a book on Google — has suggested that the solution to such fears might be a "Data Bill of Rights", which would make it easier for users of a service such as Google to see what personal data was being stored and for how long. Batelle has also put forward the idea of a control panel to make these details visible to users.
This week Danny Sullivan, editor of the news site Search Engine Land, spoke with Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer about the Privacy International report and mentioned Battelle's idea for a control panel. Fleischer's response was positive: "We're thinking hard internally along the digital dashboard type of approach. Is there a way to give users a dashboard and visibility to all these elements and give them control?" He continued: "It would be hugely complicated to build, but in terms of that vision, I completely share it, and we're having deep discussions about it." Battelle's blogged response to the news of Fleischer's words was: "Way cool."
Privacy International has now called for a global summit of the major internet companies, with the goal of thrashing out an accord on privacy. Pending the acceptance of the organisation's invitations, the meeting will take place in the week of 23 July in San Francisco. Neither Google nor Privacy International could be reached for comment at the time of writing.