3 min read

Google and Mastercard have apparently signed a deal that was kept as a secret from most of the two billion Mastercard holders. The deal allows Google to track users’ offline buying habits. The search engine giant has been stalking offline purchases made in stores through Mastercard purchase histories and correlating them with online ad interactions.

Both companies haven’t released an official statement about the partnership to the public about the arrangement.

In May 2017, Google announced a service called “Store Sales Measurement”, which recorded about 70 percent of US credit and debit card transactions through third-party partnerships.  Selected Google advertisers had access to this new tool, which tracked whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. As reported by Bloomberg, an anonymous source familiar to the deal stated that Mastercard also provided Google with customers’ transaction data thus contributing to the 70% share. It’s highly probable that other credit card companies, also contribute the data of their customer transactions

Advertisers spend lavishly on Google to gain valuable insights into the link between digital ads, a website visit or an online purchase. This supports the speculations that the deal is profitable for Google.

How do they track how you shop?

  1. A customer logs into his/her Google account on the web and clicks on any Google ad.  They may often browse a certain item without purchasing it right away.
  2. Within 30 days, if he/she uses their MasterCard to buy the same item in a physical store, Google will send the advertiser a report about the product and the effectiveness of its ads, along with a section for “offline revenue” letting the advertiser know the retail sales.

All of this raises the question on how much does Google actually know about your personal details? Both Google and Mastercard have clarified to The Verge that the data is anonymized in order to protect personally identifiable information. However, Google declined to confirm the deal with Mastercard.

A Google spokesperson released a statement  to MailOnline saying:

Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information. We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners. Google users can opt-out with their Web and App Activity controls, at any time.”

This new controversy closely follows the heels of an earlier debacle last week when it was discovered that Google is providing advertisers with location history data collated from Google Maps and other more granular data points collected by its Android operating system. But this data never helped in understanding whether a customer actually purchased a product.

Toggling off “Web and App Activity”  (enabled by default) will help in turning this feature off. The category also controls whether Google can pinpoint your exact GPS coordinates through Maps data and browser searches and whether it can crosscheck a customer’s offline purchases with their online ad-related activity.

Read more in-depth coverage on this news first reported at Bloomberg.

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