Snippet: Google and Mastercard Cut a Secret Ad Deal to Track Retail Sales ☇

Shared on September 1, 2018

Mark Bergen and Jennifer Surane for Bloomberg:

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.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Mastercard Inc. brokered a business partnership during about four years of negotiations, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly. The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant’s strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Inc. and others.

I’m not surprised, but that’s really creepy. It’s sort of what Amazon does in-house, but for everything in the outside world paired up with your Google account. The difference is that Amazon makes it very obvious that your activity on Amazon is designed to build a profile to recommend and sell more things to you, and this was happening behind people’s backs. Even if it’s anonymized and not tied to you, it still feels gross. This seems par for the course for Google, but I hope Mastercard takes some heat on this.

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