Google’s New Program to Track Shoppers Sparks a Federal Privacy Complaint

by Joseph Walent 0

 A measurable rate of return from online advertising as it translates into real world sales has been an area search engines, such as Google, have been especially eager to demonstrate to their clients. There appears to be some question around the newest solution Google released and its adherence to espoused maxim to not “be evil”.

The Washington Post detailed Google’s program, Store Sales Measurement, in May. Executives have hailed it as a “revolutionary” breakthrough in advertisers’ abilities to track consumer behavior. The company said that, for the first time, it would be able to prove, with a high degree of confidence, that clicks on online ads led to purchases at the cash register of physical stores.

To do this, Google said it had obtained access to the credit and debit card records of 70% of U.S. consumers. It had then developed a mathematical formula that would anonymize and encrypt the transaction data, and then automatically match the transactions to the millions of U.S. users of Google and Google-owned services like Gmail, search, YouTube, and maps. This approach prevents Google from accessing the credit or debit card data for individuals.

Mercator Advisory Group expects the privacy concerns being voiced will result in a clearer “opt-out” process for consumers. We also recognize the access to transactional information Google demonstrates with this pairing of web-traffic with physical retail activity indicates the establishment of a secure exchange of data between banking activity and browsing history. It will be of importance for the participants in this data-sharing to demonstrate consumer value to create impetus to not opt-out.

Overview by Joseph Walent, Associate Director, Customer Interactions Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group

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