Google wants to track your phone and credit card through meatspace

World's biggest advertising company needs to prove ads are worth the money

Eye of Sauron with Mount Doom in the background. Still from the film version of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Copyright New Line Cinema

Google wants stores to gather purchase data on its behalf, to bolster its case that advertising on the platform works.

Lest you fret about the gross invasion of privacy involved, rest assured that the Chocolate Factory promises the info will be anonymised.

(Stop laughing, anonymity researchers. We're sure Google means what it says, namely that its solutions will “match transactions back to Google ads in a secure and privacy-safe way, and only report on aggregated and anonymised store sales to protect your customer data”.)

So what exactly is Google offering a waiting and grateful world?

If it can see your device when you're shopping – the capability it introduced in 2014 called “store visit conversions – it will measure purchases rather than the number of people entering a store.

Five billion store visits (Google's measurement claim) doesn't go far enough, which is the reason for the new program. Basically, the cookie-like we-promise-nobody-can-identify-you identity attached to your device will, in a participating store, be associated with customers that actually flash the plastic.

If you've got a loyalty program or collect e-mail address info at the counter (get ready for “what's your e-mail address?” from counter staff), the data can be sucked into AdWords “directly or through a third-party data partner”.

If not, fear not: Google's signed partners in the financial sector that mean it can see 70 percent of credit card transactions in the US (thankfully, the program's specific to the US at the moment – perhaps because other countries have privacy regimes harder to navigate).

As The Consumerist puts it: “your history of ad viewing is still going to be out there, tied to your credit card spending, without a whole lot you can actually do about it”. ®

Sponsored: The Joy and Pain of Buying IT - Have Your Say


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017