Google reportedly monitors credit card usage

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Apparently, it paid millions of dollars to Mastercard to access almost two billion cardholders' data.

Some Google advertisers are using a new tool that can track whether ads they ran online resulted in a sale at a physical store in the U.S., Bloomberg news reported.

Google has reportedly approached many other companies about the platform, but there's no information on what or how many deals have been signed.

The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant's strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Amazon.com and others.

The two firms had not made the deal public but it was discovered by Bloomberg. Citing "four people with the knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly", the magazine that the agreement, which is bound to stoke new privacy concerns, was the fruit of four years of negotiations.

Google reportedly paid millions of dollars to acquire the data provided by Mastercard, and the companies have discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenues facilitated by the deal, although there is now no such revenue sharing agreement now in place.

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A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the partnership with Mastercard, but addressed the "Store Sales Measurement" tool it launched a year ago.

Last year, when Google first announced the Store Sales Measurement service, the company claimed to have access to "approximately 70 percent" of United States credit and debit cards. While these reports need an explanation from Google and even further investigation from government agencies, one thing quite clear is that data privacy in this digital age is at utmost risk.

To me, that reads as "yes, we did do a deal to access this offline spending data, but don't worry, it's all anonymous".

It is important to note that this feature works only if a customer is logged into a Google account and has not switched off the Google Ad Tracking.

Google and Mastercard declined to comment on their specific partnership. The spokesperson noted that users can opt out of the ad tracking tool by opting out of "Web and App Activity" online console. Personal data or details of individual transactions are not shared. Samsung and Google do not know any info about who made the purchase, how much was spent, or when, just that the same user who clicked an ad went out to buy a product. This allowed it to accurately track whether its online ads have been effective at influencing purchase decisions.

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