Big Brother is in the news. It is common knowledge that the government has spied on all of us and probably knows more about us than we do. Did you know that companies are trying to do the same? You should. Rewards programs abound that store your purchase history in exchange for discounts or other small perks. But what if a company wants to track you and your purchasing history without even asking?
Google announced a new tool in May 2017 in a blog post intended for advertisers about a new tool that they had developed would allow them to see what Google’s users were viewing on the web and what they were buying with their credit card. The scary thing was the tool can potentially see every transaction that you make with your card, be it online or in-store. The tool is supposed to help advertisers determine if their marketing efforts are effective and if the money they are spending on those efforts is worth it. Advertisers will certainly love this but will the users?
The answer is no. Upon learning of this many users were outraged. Google has been collecting information from what people have been using their search engine to find for years. That is no secret and no one should have a problem with that. This new tool is much different than using your search queries to target you with online ads.
How exactly can Google know if you are buying something in the physical world? They know that you clicked on an ad or on a webpage after doing a search. The tool would then record that you actually went into the store and purchased an item. The retailer would know that their ad campaign generated a sale and Google can be more confident when they market new tools to that retailer. It seems that everyone wins but the consumer.
The outrage began almost immediately as did the questions. Should a private company be able to compile all of that data? What else will be done with that data? What happens if that data falls into the wrong hands? Google claims that all data is anonymous but that has not stopped criminals in the past from learning a victim’s true identity. While Google may be one of the most secure companies on the planet this information is also sold to advertisers. What would happen should they be hacked?
This is potentially a Pandora’s Box that should never be opened. There are far too many pitfalls and dangers to this for it to be of value to everyone. Unfortunately data collection is the norm so consumers have two options, get used to it or use cash.