A report from Bloomberg revealed that Google teamed up with MasterCard to gather advertising information on their mutual clients.
The data sharing program has been underway for about a year, Bloomberg reported, and consists of Google and MasterCard working in tandem to supply Google’s advertisers with information on customers’ in-store purchases.
The benefit to advertisers is that they are able to get a more accurate picture of whether their advertisements caused an increase in sales for a particular product, even when it’s not purchased online.
The program works like this: a person who has searched for a product on Google and clicked on an ad but doesn’t buy anything, still has their information stored by Google.
If that same person later walked into a store and bought the same type product with his MasterCard, the advertiser whose ad the consumer clicked on would be fed the information from MasterCard, through Google.
The report would list that sale, along with other purchases, under the category of “Offline Revenue.” However, the program only works if the consumer surfed the web while logged into their Google account and purchased the item within 30 days of clicking on the ad.
This unexpected exchange of information could result in broader privacy concerns, depending on how much data companies like Google have absorbed.
“People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” said Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“There’s just far too much burden that companies place on consumers and not enough responsibility being taken by companies to inform users what they’re doing and what rights they have,” Bannan said.
A spokesman for MasterCard stated, however, that the company does not view the data on individual items purchased in store.
Two unidentified sources informed Bloomberg that Google paid MasterCard millions of dollars for the data collected on their customers, even having discussed an ad revenue share deal.
However, a spokesperson for Google said that their company has made no revenue sharing agreement with any of its partners at this time.
Google’s spokesperson would not comment directly on their business relationship with MasterCard but did address the ads tool.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
“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’s spokesperson also said that the program is still in its testing phase, only feeding the data to a “small group” of U.S. advertisers, Bloomberg reported.
Google allows its users to opt out of the ad tracking by accessing Google’s “Web and App Activity” console online.
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