Google’s deal with Mastercard tracks offline spending, report says

A Bloomberg report says Google struck a deal with Mastercard that cost millions of dollars in exchange for access of the customer’s offline spending habits.

(Copyright 2017, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Google is an advertising company in the first place. It is easy to forget that when we are accustomed to seeing Google-branded smartphones, the Chrome web browser, Gmail, Android and Chrome OS. But they exist as a side-effect of Google, we want to make use of the internet more and more advertising. Now it seems, the company can still be a step too far with regard to keeping track of what advertising leads.

As Bloomberg reports, Google has apparently struck a deal with Mastercard that cost millions of dollars in exchange for access of the customer’s offline spending habits. What is this allowed Google to do was the link offline spending habits with online advertising views and clicks for the past 12 months.

It meant Google effectively is to go back to advertisers and show them how their ads on the Google network led to purchases in the retail locations. This was presented to advertisers as a tool for tracking expenditure. That is not the information that the majority of the people would be with Google to have access to, let alone advertisers, especially when it was scraped from what would have to be from a trusted source: your credit card company.

The deal in itself is bad enough, but no one outside the two companies apparently knew it. Customers were not informed of their offline spending habits were shared with Google. The only reason we know is because four people “with knowledge of the deal,” decided to speak publicly about it with Bloomberg.

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Google is not commenting on the deal struck with Mastercard, but comments on the instrument that is used to access the data in an attempt to calm fears about privacy. A Google spokesperson explained, “Before we started with this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from the view of our respective users ‘personally identifiable information … We have no access to personal information of our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.”

To me, that reads as “yes, we have a deal to get access to this offline spending data, but don’t worry, it’s all anonymous.”

Mastercard pointed out, sellers need to give permission for this information to be shared, and with a spokesperson in which No individual transaction or personal data is provided … We have no insight to offer that track, serve ads, or even measure the effectiveness of the ads with respect to the individual consumer.”

Earlier this year, Google has made it easier to control the settings for your Google account, and this is your best defense against the offline track expenses. If you opt-out of ad tracking in the “Web and App Activity” console, than offline purchases “should” be immune to the tracking.

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