Published: Mon, September 03, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

Mastercard has secret contract to supply Google with offline transaction records

Mastercard has secret contract to supply Google with offline transaction records

Google has reportedly bought Mastercard credit card data in the U.S. to help it track users' offline spending in stores.

Google will record whether you have clicked an online ad and then purchased the same item within 30 days of clicking on the ad.

Since a year ago, select retailers have had access to a tool called Store Sales Measurement, which lets them track the link between online ads and in-store sales.

Google isn't commenting about the deal struck with Mastercard, but has commented on the tool used to share the data in a bid to calm fears about privacy. The deal is worth millions of dollars, with Mastercard basically selling customer data to Google.

Google has been testing a tool for advertisers that could help track whether an online ad has resulted in a purchase by a consumer in a brick and mortar store.

"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, told Bloomberg.

The deal on its own is bad enough, but nobody outside of the two companies apparently knew about it. Customers were not informed their offline spending habits were being shared with Google.

The report noted that Mastercard has also improved its data and analytics capabilities through its consulting arm, Mastercard Advisors. For Mastercard, that means the bulk of its two billion customers have no knowledge of the behind-the-scenes tracking.

It's no secret that Google - and other companies - track your online purchases; it's one of the reasons you see the ads you do, for instance.

It is possible to opt out of Google collecting data on your Mastercard transactions by toggling off "Web and App Activity" in your Google account.

The company constantly tracks what you click on if you have a Google account - which includes anyone with a YouTube or Gmail account. The only reason we know about is is because four people "with knowledge of the deal" made a decision to speak publicly about it with Bloomberg. This type of data is incredibly valuable for advertising agencies, and the tool has already been a boon for Google, leading to increased ad sales.

"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", Google said responding to the report.

Google and MasterCard have both defended the hushed-up deal by clarifying that the ad-tracking tool uses "double-blind encryption", meaning that neither party can access or view any identifiable information on the purchasers.

'The way our network operates, we do not know the individual items that a consumer purchases in any shopping cart - physical or digital, ' they said.

"No individual transaction or personal data is provided", Eisen said in a statement.

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