Google ad tracking may soon match your credit card spending to its ads

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Faster internet

You can opt out of some of Google’s ad tracking, though probably not enough to make all of this seem significantly less creepy.

Even though Google (and of course Google’s parent company, Alphabet) has its hands in quite a few different revenue streams, we all know that they’re an advertising company first and foremost. The big bucks come by way of companies paying Google to put their advertisements in front of people likely to be affected by those ads. Google ad tracking has been around for quite some time, with Google able to tell who has seen what ad. What Google ad tracking could not do on its own, however, was determine whether or not the ad was effective, i.e. whether or not you actually purchased what was advertised. A new Google tool rolling out to advertisers soon will let them tie your ad views to your credit card purchases (and location data and all sorts of other somewhat shady metrics) to see whether or not you’ve successfully been swayed by the advertising.

The Consumerist reports from Google’s annual marketer’s conference in San Francisco that this new ad tracking will be able to stitch together quite a few aspects of your daily activities to paint a pretty complete picture for advertisers:

Meanwhile, you’re leaving tracks out in the physical world — not only the location history of your phone, but also the trail of payments you leave behind you if you pay with a credit card, debit card, or app (as millions of us do).

Put A and B together, and suddenly you have a much clearer picture to share with advertisers: Why yes, John Smith did see four ads for your coffee drink online yesterday, before spending exactly what one of those drinks costs at a location of yours near his office. Congratulations, your ads work; spend more money advertising with us now, please.

If you’re thinking that Google couldn’t possibly get its hands on your offline credit card purchases, think again. Google points out that its third-party partnerships capture nearly 70% of all credit and debit card transactions here in the United States. If you’re thinking that this is super creepy, you’re also probably not alone. At the absolute very least, Google is quick to point out that your name or other potentially identifiable information won’t be passed to advertisers, simply anonymized and hashed data. So John Smith didn’t go to Store A and purchase $42.75 worth of Product B after viewing Advertising C earlier in the day, user 19b280c0916f3f8 (you get the idea) went to Store A, purchased $42.75 of Product B, etc. etc. etc.

The Consumerist does also point out though that anyone looking at your data — anonymized or not — can reasonably infer who they’re looking at with surprisingly little data. Add the growing trend of embedding ultrasonic ad tracking into apps, and your data is surprisingly easy to compile.

You can opt out of some of Google’s ad tracking, though probably not enough to make all of this seem significantly less creepy. You could also try making all of your purchases with cash, but that’s just exhausting, who has time for that?

What do you think about this new enhanced ad tracking? Tell us all about it in the comment section below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

  Source: The Consumerist
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