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Is Google Getting Details of YOUR Purchases From MasterCard?

Reports of a data-sharing deal with credit company MasterCard could mean that some details of your credit card purchases could be shared with Google, and used to improve their online advertising service.

What Deal?

According to reports from Bloomberg, after four years of negotiations, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and MasterCard Inc. have brokered a “business partnership”. The deal, not surprisingly, is reported to have cost Google millions of dollars.

It has been reported that this alliance between the two companies may have given Google access to data that would allow it to get a much clearer view of retail spending by enabling the tracking of whether the Google ads run online actually led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S.

How Could This Work?

Some commentators have envisaged that the way the deal could work for Google is that, if an (anonymous) Google account clicks an advert, and goes on to purchase the product offline within 30 days, Google could include that potentially useful information in a summary to the advertiser in question. In other words, Google gets to offer its advertisers another layer of information about the effectiveness of their advertising.

What Do Google and MasterCard Say?

According to Bloomberg, Google has said this is a beta product that was only launched last year, and has double-blind encryption technology built-in to it anyway, thereby stopping Google or MasterCard from viewing their respective users’ personally identifiable information. A spokeswoman for Google is also reported to have said that there is no revenue sharing agreement with its partners.

MasterCard is reported to have said that it offers its own media measurement services to retailers, but that it relies upon the merchant supplying their own advertising campaign details and spending data for the duration of any campaign. MasterCard is reported to have said that it only supplies merchants and their designated service providers with trends that are based on aggregated and anonymised data e.g. average ticket size and sales volumes.

Both Google and MasterCard have said that any data used as part of this alliance is anonymised.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

In an omni-channel retail environment, it would make some sense that retailers / advertisers would like to extend the scope of how they can measure their advertising and its ultimate effectiveness. For Google, it’s important to find another way to use its power, data assets, and financial might to find another way to add value, another point of differentiation, and an extra competitive advantage to its online advertising services.

To consumers, however, the thought of any of the credit / private purchasing details shared with another private company without their initial express consent may be somewhat alarming. Even with assurances of anonymised data being used, many people’s trust may not extend that far, and may have been damaged by continuous news stories about data breaches at big companies, and the revelations about the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal. Google was also recently discovered to be recording the locations of its users via their mobile devices, even when they have requested not to be tracked by turning their “Location History” off.

Even though Google has said that Google users can opt-out with their Web and App Activity controls, at any time, you can’t opt-out of your credit card company receiving information from them if you still owe them money.

All-in-all, on the face of it, you could be forgiven for thinking that this looks like a good deal for Google and MasterCard, a good deal for Google’s merchant advertisers, a potentially bad deal for consumers, and hopefully not a good deal for cyber-criminals.