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Google & Mastercard Ramping Up Tracking Efforts with Secret Ad Deal



Some Google advertisers have been up to some secret business for the past year. They used a tool that allowed them to track ads in a more efficient way, more specifically helping them see if an online ad translated to a purchase at an actual store instead of just an e-commerce purchase. The information was available thanks to Mastercard transactions of which Google got a hold after paying for them.

The activity happened in secret though, with Bloomberg reporting that the vast majority of the two billion Mastercard customers having no idea about how their data were being used in this way for tracking. The two companies never made the public aware of such an agreement that would allow for this sharing of information.

Bloomberg reports that “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. 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 Inc. and others.”

As technology continues consuming people’s lives more and more, stories like this one bring personal privacy and protection back the forefront.

“People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center said. “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.”

The data cost Google millions of dollars, according to two people who worked on the deal, and the companies even had potential plans to share ad revenues with each other in the future despite the dealings being secretive, according to one of the people. The people who spoke to Bloomberg asked not to be identified discussing private matters. A spokeswoman for Google said no such agreements exist.

A Google spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on a potential partnership like the one described with Mastercard but was willing to speak more about the tool that the company was able to use, saying that “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’s statement continued by saying “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.” The company stressed that people do have the option to opt out of ad tracking using Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console.

By: Victor Caine

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