The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the algorithm
in Google AdWords that ties consumer online behavior to in-store purchases.
Google invested years in building a privacy solution. Here’s how it works: An advertising campaign runs on Google
that gets 10,000 clicks. A store participating in the program makes $5,000 in sales. By connecting the data, Google can tell that 12% of the consumer clicking on ads made a purchase. There’s no
individual data about the consumer or the product he or she purchased made available.
The data is collected in aggregate, encrypted and anonymized before it is given to advertisers, according
to Google, but that doesn’t seem to satisfy the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“This type of sales measurement is common and before we launched our solution, we invested in building a
new, custom encryption technology that ensures users’ data remains private, secure, and anonymous,” per a Google spokesperson. “We do not have access to any identifiable user’s credit and debit
card data from our partners for this product, nor do we share any personal user information with our partners. We only use data for users that have consented to have their web and app activity
associated with their Google account, which users can opt-out of at any time.”
Privacy Checkup has had 45 million visits since the launch. It helps people understand how they can
easily opt-out of data collection. The checkup takes users through a list of options and enables them to specifically choose to prevent an account from being associated with different types of
The privacy group argues that if consumers do not want their purchases tracked, Google doesn’t give them enough information on making a decision on whether or not to use cash or a credit
card. And it doesn’t provide enough information on the retailers using the technology. Consumers can opt out through Google’s My…