Google tracks Mastercard purchases to see if online advertisements prompt real-world sales. The deal is worth millions of dollars, with Mastercard basically selling customer data to Google.

Here’s Mark Bergen and Jennifer Surane, writing for Bloomberg, breaking the story:

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking. That’s because the companies never told the public about the arrangement.

The data is used for Google’s Store Sales Measurement program, which is openly advertised. Only select retailers can access the data right now.

Mastercard likely isn’t the only company with such a partnership: Google once announced the company has access to “approximately 70 percent” of credit and debit transactions in the United States, according to Bloomberg. So odds are, if you buy something, Google knows about it.

It’s really hard to overstate how much of our lives are being tracked by advertisers, and this is just the latest example. It makes sense that Google wants this information—it gives them the ability to prove to customers that Google’s ad service drives sales. But how comfortable are people knowing that Google, and Google’s advertising customers, have access to this much information about their lives?

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Justin Pot has been writing about technology for over a decade, with work appearing in Digital Trends, The Next Web, Lifehacker, MakeUseOf, and the Zapier Blog. He also runs the Hillsboro Signal, a volunteer-driven local news outlet he founded.
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