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

Mastercard and Google

Mastercard and Google

Under the new deal, if that person uses their Mastercard to purchase the item at a physical store within 30 days, Google sends a report to the advertiser.

In May a year ago, Google quietly launched a tool called "store sales measurement" that could help it determine whether an online ad led directly to real-world purchases.

According to Bloomberg, Google had once claimed that the company has access to "approximately 70 percent" of credit and debit card data in the U.S. However, earlier this year, Google made some tweaks to the settings that allow the user to opt out of ad tracking via its "Web and App Activity" console.

It's no secret that Google - and other companies - track your online purchases; it's one of the reasons you see the ads you do, for instance.

Both Google and Mastercard had kept quiet on their partnership however, keeping customers in the dark about their relationship and the extent of their tracking until Bloomberg lifted the lid, although both say that aggregated data identifying individuals has been anonymised.

Both Google and Bloomberg say the data is anonymised, meaning purchase histories can not be linked back and used to personally identifiable information, including your billing address, name, age, or other details held by the two companies.

"But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren't aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking".

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Sources familiar with the deal say Google paid Mastercard millions of dollars for the data. A part of the solution matches clicks with purchases in offline stores, made with debit or credit cards. Bloomberg notes that Google provides a bulk report of the percentage of consumers that bought the product advertised after clicking the ad. The spokesperson also said there was no revenue sharing between Google and its partners.

For consumers who don't provide an email address, the company relies on third-party companies, like Mastercard, that process card transaction data.

The report mentions that Google has gone to great lengths to track offline data.

If you provide a Google email address when you purchase something in-store, the merchant will let Google know if it has a partnership with the firm.

A Mastercard spokesperson said purchased items are never linked to personally identifiable information, including billing addresses, or account numbers.

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". But Christine Bannan of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre told Bloomberg that this burden shouldn't rest on unwitting consumers.

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