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Google has been secretly paying Mastercard for sales data to track retail sales

With so many issues involving privacy concerns online, this is not a good look for the company.

For at least the past year, Google has been paying to receive transaction information about the world’s 2 billion Mastercard users. The secret deal between Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Mastercard Inc. developed after four years of negotiations but is only now becoming public, according to Bloomberg.

As part of the arrangement, Google receives “an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending.” In turn, select Google advertisers have been able to see whether ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the United States.

Because this deal wasn’t previously reported, however, some are raising privacy concerns over how much consumer data a company like Google should be allowed to collect. From the report, Google paid millions to Mastercard and there were even discussions on profit-sharing from ad revenue. A spokesperson from Google did state that no profit-sharing was taking place, however.

Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) explains:

People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online. 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.

For its part, Google hasn’t discussed its partnership with Mastercard. However, through a spokesperson, it did address the new ad tools. In a statement, the company said:

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 also states that it does not have access to personal information regarding partners’ debit and credit cards and that it doesn’t share personal information with said partners.

Further, the company told Bloomberg users could opt out of ad tracking using its “Web and App Activity” online console. Still, “Inside Google, multiple people raised objections that the service did not have a more obvious way for cardholders to opt out of the tracking, one of the people said.”

It seems each new week brings with it stories about companies like Google or Facebook gathering user information without our explicit permission. Why are they so afraid of just being honest?

Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know below.

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Bryan considers himself a well-rounded techie, having written articles for MakeUseOf, KnowTechie, AppAdvice, iDownload Blog. When he's not writing, he's being a single dad and rooting for his alma mater, Penn State, or cheering on the Patriots.

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