FTC investigates Google’s offline shopping tracker

Watchdog The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) urges through a legal complaint that FTC investigate Google’s “Store Sales Measurement” tool that tracks consumers’ offline shopping patterns for profiling to further improve sales through online ads.

The “Store Sales Measurement” tool was introduced in May and promises to “allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads.” It can allegedly track approximately 70 percent of US transactions to establish a clear connection between online user activity and offline purchases, yet Google refuses to reveal its data collecting methods.

“Store sales measurement gives us a more accurate view of the impact our digital investment has on in-store results, especially through mobile. This has empowered us to invest more budget in Search to better support this critical part of the consumer journey,” explained James Libor, Performance Marketing and Technology Manager at Virgin Holidays.

The tech giant has already gathered data regarding billions of transactions “containing personal customer information, from credit card companies, data brokers, and others and has linked those records with the activities of Internet users, including product searches and location searches,” reads the complaint filed by EPIC.

Although Google assures customers that privacy is not breached, the tech giant refuses to give away its data collection technique or allow independent investigations. Additionally, the company claims users can at any time disable this feature from the “Web and App Activity” setting.

“We take privacy very seriously so it’s disappointing to see a number of inaccuracies in this complaint. We invested in building industry-leading privacy protections before launching this solution. All data is encrypted and aggregated— we don’t share or receive any identifiable credit card data whatsoever,” said Google following a comment request from Engadget.

“Users have robust controls— we only use data that they’ve consented to have associated with their Web and App activity in their Google account, which users can opt-out of at any time. We are committed to constantly innovating and continuing to provide transparency to users on what data we collect and how we use it.”

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