On Tuesday this week (May 23, 2017), Google has unveiled a new store-sales measurement tool in a conference the company hosted for advertisers.
The new tool takes tracking into physical stores by matching ad click data the company collects, to purchases on credit and debit cards the company has access to, which according to Google equals roughly 70% of U.S. credit and debit card transactions.
Google claims its data gathering rely primarily on log-in information, such as email addresses, to identify the people clicking on ads (mind you, primarily doesn’t mean necessarily). Then, it crosses that data with other identifying information collected by merchants and the issuers of credit and debit cards to figure out when digital ads contribute to an offline purchase.
Google says it won’t be able to examine the specific items bought or how much a specific individual spent due to a “double-blind” mechanism that keeps it from seeing personally identifying information which merchants, credit and debit cards issuers holds and vice versa.
Yet, as you may recall a case which happened not long ago, where researchers found that an alleged non-identifying information could easily be converted to a personally identifying one.
Learning that both your online and offline actions can potentially lead to you personally, may be even more terrifying especially when it involves a huge corporation – a single, commercial entity – that holds more information about you than what even your country/government holds.
The further stretching of individual’s privacy lines made by this move, adds up to other similar acts done by the company over the years, e.g. the data mining made whenever you use Google’s search engine, watch a YouTube video, use Google Maps, and more recently, they even started crossing that information with the info they gather about you through their ad network, which is personally identifying by the way.
This lets Google build a pretty accurate profile of what you like and what you don’t like, the places you visit often, etc… Although it may be true that Google only means well, nonetheless no one can guarantee what will happen had the information fell into a hacker’s hands.
There are two old sayings that, justifiably, should turn on a red light in everybody’s mind when thinking about it: “knowledge equals power” and “power corrupts”. Meaning; while Google may not use the tremendous power it gained over the years (by collecting information) at the current time, in the future, it might not always be the case.
Tips For Minimizing Tracking Risks
Lastly, there are a few things you should know that might assist you in staying safe from the ever watchful eye:
- Google’s tool doesn’t work for cash payments or the 30% of U.S. card transactions that Google can’t currently access.
- There’s an option to opt-out of Google’s tracking. the procedure by which you can do so is detailed in the last link given above.
- You may want to consider using a VPN service such as IPVanish to become anonymous online.