Google has secretly been providing certain advertisers a collection of offline credit card transaction data. According to a Bloomberg report, Google and Mastercard finalized a deal after four years of discussion. The deal suggests that Google will pay Mastercard millions for getting data of its card holders. Later on, Google created a new tool called Store Sales Measurement using those data. This tool allows advertisers to view whether its online ads turned into real world retail sales.
Mastercard has never informed its users about its deal with Google. So, its two billion customers have no idea about the secret tracking by Google.
According to Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center, there’s too much taking place secretly. People never expect that things they buy from store are linked to what they buy online. Companies try very hard to place this link on consumers and do not inform users about this. Also, they never let users know about their rights.
Sales Measurement Service
Last year, Google first announced the Store Sales Measurement service. At that time, Google had access about 70 percent of US debit and credit cards. In the US, out of all purchases made using credit cards, about 25 percent are made using Mastercard-branded cards.
Google never named its partners. But, as it has access to 70 percent of US cards, we can conclude that Mastercard isn’t the only credit card company it is currently in partnership with. Also, Visa and American Express has never said anything about this.
According to a Google spokesperson, they created a new double-blind encryption technology for this product last year. It prevents Google as well as its partners from viewing confidential data of its users. The company do not have any access to personal information from its partners’ credit and debit cards. Also, they do not share any personal information with its partners. It allows its users to opt-out for this service at any time using Web and App Activity controls.
Though there’s a way to opt out of offline tracking, most users are completely unaware about its existence. Also, Google didn’t mention anything about tracking offline purchases with the opt out tool.
Google is trying to fill the gap between offline and online ads. Since 2014, the company has been using Google Maps to provide advertisers with tracking sales derived from ads. But, it was unable to provide details about sales made within the stores.
A Mastercard spokesperson responded to this matter.
The company’s network operates in way they do not know about individual items purchased by a consumer offline/online. Also, no individual data or transactions are shared with others. It is concerned for the privacy of both consumers and merchants. Processing of transaction only involves the retailer’s name and the total billing amount, but no individual items.