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Google Strikes Deal With MasterCard To Track Ads and Consumer Purchasing Online

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Google, in a secret meeting with MasterCard, recently struck a multi-million dollar deal that would monitor users’ in-store purchases, collecting data on which Google ads have resulted in consumer purchases.

According to Bloomberg, for the past year, Google used its access to MasterCard data to gain insight into how online ads affect consumer spending all in an effort to sustain its $95.4 billion ad business. Google and MasterCard could be sharing ad revenue, Bloomberg added, but also reported a spokeswoman for Google denied that claim.

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

While being logged into your Google account, every click on an ad is recorded-even if you don’t purchase what’s being advertised. Up until this point, there’s been no definitive way to tell if online ads actually resulted in any purchases. Knowing which ads have resulted in online purchases would make targeted ads (ads tailored to specific individuals) invaluable information.

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“Google is testing the data service with a ‘small group’ of advertisers in the U.S., according to a spokeswoman,” Bloomberg reported. “With it, marketers see aggregate sales figures and estimates of how many [sales] they can attribute to Google ads — but they don’t see a shopper’s personal information, how much they spend, or what exactly they buy.”

Bloomberg claims that the deal took over four years to negotiate, and has been active for the last 12 months.

“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,” Google said in a statement, according to Bloomberg. “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.”

“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 publication reported. “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.”

Social Media giant Facebook has been working with banks and already have existing patents that suggest the company is looking into tracking those who use their platform in the real world, not just online, to monitor what they’re buying in stores.

The Wall Street Journal reported on August 6th that Facebook had began meeting with several large banks, including U.S. Bancorp, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup. Facebook reportedly asked for customers’ data from the banks, including account balances and card transactions to be used in conjunction with several financial features available on the platform, including fraud alerts and checking account balances.

Facebook filed a patent that uses cameras at checkout counters to scan, record, and track shoppers’ faces. The software matches the shoppers’ scanned face to their social media accounts and sends them messages to confirm purchases.

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