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Google Feels Hot Water as Mastercard Deal Leaks

August 29, 2018

With so many financial scandals being linked to social media platforms, it only makes sense that search engine giant Google should see some bad press. It appears that the company is in a bit of hot water with internet users as the public just learned of a multi-million-dollar deal struck in secret between Google and credit card magnate, MasterCard. The deal has been ongoing for the past year, allowing Google to look through private Mastercard spending data to determine what kind of retail is trending and where they should be spending money to make money.

Google already stores much of its users spending preferences if they’re logged into a Google account and browsing. Any ecommerce interaction, online store, even something as simple as downloading music is logged and sorted through when the company decides on future investment opportunities.

 

What Is Google Looking For?

It doesn’t seem odd that Google wants to see what users are buying, but what some consumers are finding weird is that the company is also monitoring products which aren’t being bought. So, when you log onto Etsy through a Google account, the search engine business can see which products you look at, even when you don’t buy. This helps them determine not only what’s popular, but what is interesting to consumers but not interesting enough to press “buy” for.

The deal Google has struck with Mastercard lets them see which ads are clicked, what products are purchased, and possibly even a digital receipt, depending on how and who it was processed with. Inside information about the deal suggests that Mastercard decided on the partnership more than 4-years ago to keep up with virtual opponents Amazon and Facebook. To even things out, Google also shares data they receive about users with ad partners. This makes it easier for advertisers to craft content for target audiences.

 

What This Means for The Public

For most Americans, this means that when you login to your computer the ads you see will be tailored to things you’ve liked or purchased in the past. This is much the same as the way that Facebook and other advertisers operate. So far, it’s clear that roughly 70% of U.S. based creditors and banks have given access to Facebook; although, whether this is all financial institutions or just MasterCard is unknown.

The data Google shares with advertisers has a different set of rules governing it. According to recent reports, the only information marketers see is general data, such as how many times the ads placed on Google reflected a purchase. They can’t see a user’s credit card information, personal information, or even which items were of interest.

 

Google is Also Tracking Location

When you buy an Android device or use Google maps, you’re provided with the option to opt into location history. New reports indicate that even when you choose to keep your location history firmly set to off, you’re being recorded. This location information sends data to Google confirming where you are and when; it helps the company to confirm similar information to the spending reports with MasterCard, such as where you like to eat, shop, and participate in extracurricular activities.

On the bright side, Google has been extremely straight forward in their policies about privacy and tracking. This data tracking must be agreed upon by the user during the privacy agreement. When Google updates the agreements, internet users are notified and have the option to choose not to use a Google device.

 

Why Does Google Want Your Location?

Google has tried to make their stance clear on data collection for location purposes. The company explained recently that by collecting this information they can make user experiences better. Application availability and activity will be improved, along with phone controls, and ongoing location information tactics. The location tracking is pertinent to maps programs, Google Assistant, and other aspect of mobile phone use.

Apple users aren’t safe either, as this seemingly Android tactic is also said to be employed by iPhone. This means iOS users are equally at risk of sharing personal location data even when they’d rather not. It begs the question, is there anybody who truly lives off the grid now?

 

Consumer Opinion on Recent Findings

According to social media responses and internet forums, consumers are split about the possible invasion of privacy by search engine giant Google. For some, it appears that consumers are taking this to be a normal risk of using the internet, and a necessary sacrifice for the information and access they are being given. Others aren’t taking it so lightly and are considering switching phone carriers, or working around using Google’s login and control center.

So far, the reaction about credit card information sharing seems to be more prominently featured in discussions and on forums than the location history. This could be due to concerns about financial security vs. the concept of personal safety or address leaks. Whether Google will take consumer outrage into account before designing their next privacy and security update is unseen. The likelihood of a huge company like Google making such a large-scale change for consumers seem slim, but Google has always been a very user-centric company.

 

For a closer look at the changes Google has been making and the most recent policy updates on data sharing, check out Google’s official news page. The company has been very transparent with internet users, possibly to avoid a catastrophe such as the recent scandals Facebook has been facing.

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