The Merkle

Google Will Track Offline Card Purchases to Keep Advertisers Happy

From a privacy point of view, the last thing you need is company tracking your offline payments. Most people would think it unlikely for any enterprise to do so. Leave it to Google engineers to come up with a way to do exactly this, and pass along the information to advertisers at the same time. Things are evolving in the wrong direction as far as financial privacy is concerned.

Google Comes Up With a Dangerous Plan

It is quite troubling to learn Google has found a viable way to keep tabs of consumer spending habits. More specifically, the company can track offline credit card payments and share this information with third-party advertisers. This is not something to be proud of by any means, yet Google shared this new service with the world in a semi-gleeful manner. Advertisers will be more than pleased with this development, yet consumers may feel otherwise.

To be more specific, this new service will allow advertisers to track and link offline credit card payments with an ongoing marketing campaign. As we would come to expect from a technology giant, the new feature makes use of machine learning and uses data collected by Google’s regular advertising campaigns. It is believed the technology giant will capture close to 70% of all credit and debit card transactions in the US for advertisement purposes.

While it is true Google is in a rather unique position to provide such a compelling service, it is also a privacy risk. Google has virtually all data on any Internet user around the world. The new Attribution service will aggregate data from Adwords, Analytics, and DoubleClick search. Moreover, the company has geolocation and Wifi network information records from Android phones dating back to 2014. It is evident there is no such thing as privacy when using any service related to Google or its subsidiaries.

It is interesting to note Google will only collect payment data through undisclosed third-party partnerships. This also shows how entrusting companies with credit and debit card information is a major security risk right now. There is no reason for payment processors not to team up with Google, as such a viable treasure trove of information can be used for all kinds of advertising purposes.

Google justifies the launch of this service as a way to do something the advertising industry has been unable to achieve for decades. Having the ability to track actual sales across different devices and into the real-world has been of great interest to companies for some time now. Google Attribution will provide exactly that service, shifting focus from tracking the last click on an ad to actual sales.

From a privacy point of view, Google claims they will keep all payment information secure at all times. Apparently, the company will only receive aggregated and anonymized store sales to identify payments, but not the person responsible for doing so. A lot of people will furrow their brow when reading that, as we all know Google has far too much information on hand about every user as we speak. It will be interesting to see how this new service plays out in the long run.

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