Economy

Google and Mastercard are secretly tracking your offline purchases

Google and Mastercard are secretly tracking your offline purchases

Google reportedly paid Mastercard "millions of dollars" to access the data, and the companies even discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenue, though the deal between the two seems to have fallen through.

Google also has deals with several third-party companies that process card transaction data.

According to Bloomberg, this deal was finally brokered between the two companies after four years of negotiation.

LAWYER CHRISTINE BANNAN at the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

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It works like this: a person searches for "red lipstick" on Google, clicks on an ad, surfs the web but doesn't buy anything.

Neither Google nor Mastercard have commented specifically about the secret deal that has now been exposed, but Mastercard spokesperson Seth Eisen confirmed that this company shares information to help advertisers determine the effectiveness of ad campaigns.

The company constantly tracks what you click on if you have a Google account - which includes anyone with a YouTube or Gmail account.

Responding to these reports Google said: "Before we launched this beta product past year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users' personally identifiable information".

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"This raises serious concerns regarding the use of private financial data", said legal director Myles Jackman. Google is paying Mastercard, and conceivably other card systems, to get to this data.

Last year, when Google first announced the Store Sales Measurement service, the company claimed to have access to "approximately 70 percent" of U.S. credit and debit cards.

Google emphasized in its statement that users can opt-out of ad-tracking at any time; however, the fact that no one knew this was happening makes that advice a little disingenuous.

The information provided is the sales volumes and average size of the purchase, and is only shared with the permission of the merchants. With the tool, Google can match existing user profiles with purchases in stores providing advertisers with powerful data on which ads people clicked on and how it impacted their purchasing decisions. A few weeks later in a brick-and-mortar store, you buy some red lipstick using your Mastercard. This allowed it to accurately track whether its online ads have been effective at influencing purchase decisions. That gap created a demand for Google to find ways for its biggest customers to gauge offline sales, and then connect them to the promotions they run on Google.

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