Bloomberg, citing four people with knowledge of the deal, reported advertisers have been using the new tool that scans Mastercard transactions that Google purchased from the credit card company. Its also not known to the two billion Mastercard holders because the two companies never publicly announced the data arrangement, reported Bloomberg. The deal was a result of conversations between the two during the course of four years. The deal gives Google an ability to measure the impact digital ads have on physical retail spending unlike any of its rivals. It could also raise privacy issues since Google has been using and acquiring the data behind the scenes without the permission of the consumers. “People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) told Bloomberg in the report. “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.”
According to Bloomberg, Google spent millions of dollars to get the Mastercard data, with the two sides discussing the idea of sharing in the ad revenue. A Google spokeswoman told Bloomberg the search giant doesn’t have any revenue-sharing agreements with any of its partners. She declined to comment on the partnership but did discuss the ad tool. “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,” the company said in a statement. “We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.” Meanwhile, Seth Eisen, a Mastercard spokesman, declined to comment on Google but did say the credit card company shares transaction trends with merchants and service providers so they can measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. He said information such as sales volume and the average size of purchase are only shared if the merchants give their permission. “No individual transaction or personal data is provided. We do not provide insights that track, serve up ads to, or even measure ad effectiveness relating to, individual consumers,” Eisen said in the statement.
Two people familiar with the talks told Bloomberg Google reached out to other payment companies about its tool, but it’s not clear if any other deals were inked. Google said the service works only with people who are logged into a Google account and haven’t opted out of ad tracking. With the tool, which Google is still testing, it can match a user’s profile with purchases he or she made in stores. The data service is being tested with a small group of advertisers in the U.S. with partners able to see sales figures and how much was due to a Google ad. They don’t see the personal information of the shopper, how much they spent or what they purchased, noted the report. It only applies to search and shopping ads, noted the report.