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Tracked: cards vs cash

Categories : Cash protects privacy and anonymity
June 7, 2017
Tags : Consumers, Privacy and anonymity, Retailers, Security, Trust
Google developed a new tool to better track consumer purchases following them from advert to till.
Communication Team / Equipo de Comunicación

During its annual conference organised for its advertisers in San Francisco last May, Google unveiled a new tracking tool that records how much consumers spent in-store after clicking on a Google ad. The program was developed in order to estimate the efficiency of digital advertising and persuade retailers to increase their digital presence through online ads. 

Here is how it works: Google estimates what users like according to their searches. The system then displays online ads matching users’ supposed interests. Today, Google is already able to know if an online purchase was triggered by its advert. With the new tool, that information is taken a step further: from desktop to shop. In fact, thanks to the login information such as one’s email address, Google can personally identify who clicked on an ad. The aggregated data collected are then matched with those compiled by Google’s partner merchants and bank card providers to identify card holders.

Google affirms that the system is “secure and privacy safe” as data collected by Google cannot be seen by partner merchants and card issuers, and vice versa. In addition, Google can only estimate the value of physical purchases, but is not able to identify which specific items were bought or the total amount spent by a particular individual. Nevertheless, Larry Ponemon – chairman of Ponemon Institute privacy research firm – reminded that aggregated data can be converted back to its source to unveil users’ personal information – a database that could be extremely appealing for companies and governments. Furthermore, experts warned that the collected data could become the new target of hackers.

The tool should enable Google to access about 70% of US credit and debit card transactions, the company stated. Cash payments remain thus the most secure and anonymous option for consumers concerned about their security and privacy: a fundamental right that does not seem to be high on Google’s list.  

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