Google, Mastercard cut secret ad deal to track retail sales

03 September, 2018, 03:58 | Author: Mary Valdez
  • Mastercard and Google

However, a Google statement to Bloomberg on the advertising tool says: "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".

Google emphasized in its statement that users can opt-out of ad-tracking at any time; however, the fact that no one knew this was happening makes that advice a little disingenuous. The company will then tell the advertiser that the item was purchased in a store, although Google and Mastercard say the data is anonymous in order to protect personal identities. What this allowed Google to do was link up offline spending habits with online advertising views and clicks for the past 12 months.

The service, dubbed Store Sales Measurement, went live in 2017 with Google telling marketers at the time it had access to about 70% of USA credit and debit cards via unnamed partnerships. For Mastercard, that means the bulk of its two billion customers have no knowledge of the behind-the-scenes tracking.

It has become possible to assess how online ads influence consumer behavior thanks to the Store Sales Measurement tool, unveiled by Google in May 2017. Bloomberg says when you walk into a brick-and-mortar store to buy a pair of red stilettos using a Mastercard, Google will know and will report your purchase to the advertiser that ran that campaign as "offline revenue".

The company constantly tracks what you click on if you have a Google account - which includes anyone with a YouTube or Gmail account. This was presented to advertisers as a tool for tracking the spending.

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Mastercard pointed out merchants must give permission for this data to be shared, with a spokesman stating, "No individual transaction or personal data is provided".

"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 has reportedly approached many other companies about the platform, but there's no information on what or how many deals have been signed. This deal was reached without consulting MasterCard customers whose purchase history was sold to Google without their explicit consent.

The Holy Grail of advertising data is offline sales. Both companies, however, insisted that they do not study the activity of individual consumers and provide their customers with aggregated depersonalized data. But Christine Bannan of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre told Bloomberg that this burden shouldn't rest on unwitting consumers.

'In processing a transaction, we see the retailer's name and the total amount of the consumer's purchase, but not specific items'.

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