Google Bought Mastercard Data To Track Your Offline Purchases For Ad-Targeting

Roman Schwartz
September 3, 2018

"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, ' a Google spokesperson told MailOnline.

The spokesperson added that users can opt out of ad tracking through the Web and App Activity section in their Google account. The tech giant didn't explain exactly how this new tracking system worked, but assured advertisers that it would provide them with valuable insight into the link between what people look at online and what they buy offline. Bloomberg notes that Google provides a bulk report of the percentage of consumers that bought the product advertised after clicking the ad.

It is suggested that Google has parted with millions of dollars to secure its data prize, enabling it to court advertisers with a new tool capable of saying whether a viewed ad later led to a purchase.

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

The company constantly tracks what you click on if you have a Google account - which includes anyone with a YouTube or Gmail account. That's not information the majority of people would be comfortable with Google having access to, let alone advertisers, especially when it was scraped from what should be a trusted source: your credit card company. This tool, however, didn't track sales made within the stores.

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Mastercard denied suggestions that its data could be used to identify exact purchases. The tool largely flew under the radar although Google's admission that it captures approximately 70 percent of credit and debit card transactions in the United States probably should have raised some red flags.

It's unclear if Google has similar arrangements with other credit card companies.

We now know that Mastercard was one of the partnerships, with others possibly, as well.

The Holy Grail of advertising data is offline sales. This deal was reached without consulting MasterCard customers whose purchase history was sold to Google without their explicit consent. The way our network operates, we do not know the individual items that a consumer purchases in any shopping card - physical or digital. Both companies, however, insisted that they do not study the activity of individual consumers and provide their customers with aggregated depersonalized data. "In processing a transaction, we see the retailer's name and the total amount of the consumer's purchase, but not specific items", the statement read.

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