New problems for Google, experts discovered a secret agreement of the tech giant with Mastercard to track user purchases offline.
Google has paid Mastercard millions of dollars to access offline transactions of its users.
The embarrassing agreement was revealed by Bloomberg that cited four unidentified people with knowledge of the deal.
Google used Mastercard data to track whether its ads led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S.
Google and Mastercard signed the agreement after a four-year negotiation, it gives the company all Mastercard transaction data in the US.
Neither Mastercard or Google have never disclosed the deal, roughly two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware that Big G was tracking them.
“Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Mastercard Inc. brokered a business partnership during about four years of negotiations, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly.” reads the report published by Bloomberg.
“The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant’s strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Amazon.com Inc. and others.”
Google used the data to fuel a new tool for advertisers, called Store Sales Measurement, that is currently in a test phase for a restricted group of advertisers. The tool aims at tracking the conversion rate of online advertisements into real-world retail sales.
Google never revealed that the source of data used by its Store Sales Measurement service since its presentation, the company only declared that its customers had access to approximately 70% of U.S. credit and debit cards through partners.
“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 (EPIC).
“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.”
This suggests that not just Mastercard, Google has deals with other credit card companies as well, which total of 70% of the people who use credit and debit cards in the United States.
However, it seems that users can reportedly opt out of offline ad tracking by merely turning off “Web and App Activity” in their Google account.
Mastercard denied that it has provided personal information to any third parties.
“Regarding the [Bloomberg] article you cited, I’d quickly note that the premise of what was reported is false. The way our network operates, we do not know the individual items that consumer purchases in any shopping cart—physical or digital.” a Mastercard spokesperson said in a statement:
“No individual transaction or personal data is provided. That delivers on the expectation of privacy from both consumers and merchants around the world. In processing a transaction, we see the retailer’s name and the total amount of the consumer’s purchase, but not specific items.”