Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has built an incredible business on the accuracy of its ad tracking programs, which offer marketers more and more ways to reach the most relevant audience possible.
But one of its latest tracking measures is drawing the ire of consumer watchdogs, who filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The issue at hand is Google’s unique way of tying consumers’ online product searches to their physical purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.
The Washington Post has more detail on the filing:
The legal complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to be filed with the FTC on Monday, alleges that Google is newly gaining access to a trove of highly sensitive information — the credit and debit card purchase records of the majority of U.S. consumers — without revealing how they got the information or giving consumers meaningful ways to opt out. Moreover, the group claims that the search giant is relying on a secretive technical method to protect the data — a method that should be audited by outsiders and is likely vulnerable to hacks or other data breaches.
Back in May, Google unveiled its Store Sales Measurement program. Some analysts have called the system “revolutionary,” since it marked the first time in history that advertisers could reliably connect their online ads with physical world purchases.
For its part, Google claims its approach of buying credit card records is “common.” It also notes it’s investing heavily in proprietary encryption technology that will keep people’s data safe from hackers.
While marketers love the new controls, EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg isn’t as enthused. “Google is seeking to extend its dominance from the online world to the real, offline world, and the FTC really needs to look at that,” he says.
It’s not the first time Google has faced privacy concerns. In 2011 and 2012, the company paid millions in fines to settle FTC charges. It also faced…