On Wednesday, the SVP of Ads and Commerce at Google, Sridhar Ramaswamy, revealed the company monitors roughly 70% of all physical debit and credit card transactions in the U.S. He made the announcement at the annual Google Marketing Next conference in San Francisco.
The executive claimed it is an important data-gathering platform to sustain the upcoming store sales measurement tool, which will be rolling out to advertisers in the coming months. Ramaswamy said only that the program relied on third-party partnerships, but failed to mention names.
Google also emphasized its shift across the board from a mobile-first company to an AI-first company again. It, of course, includes its marketing division, which is the primary source of revenue not only for Google itself but also for the Alphabet consortium as a whole.
Store sales measurement raises privacy concerns among consumers
Consumers have long complained about online ads being annoying and intrusive, sometimes even blurring the line between what’s just plain marketing and what’s creepy.
Facebook and Google have been the two companies who are often at the receiving end of these accusations. Both have engaged in questionable practices in the past and been caught doing it, but this Tuesday Google just outright admitted something many consider a violation to their privacy.
In 2014, the tech giant introduced store visits measurement as a way to account for all the people who might have visited a store after seeing or clicking on an online ad for that business.
Using Google Maps data and cross-analyzing it with AdWords data, the marketing division of the company lets advertisers know how many clients out of a pool of store-goers could have visited the shop as a result of looking at an ad.
Now, store sales measurement takes things one step further, and it straight involves consumer identity information in the process of data gathering for businesses and corporations.
By applying a similar method, which this time relies on a presumed partnership between card companies, banks, and Google, advertisers can get very close conversions estimates after running data through new machine learning models at Mountain View.
A spokesperson for the company told the BBC that the marketing solution has been under development for years, but it is only now that they plan to roll it out because they had to ensure it complied with strong-enough security standards:
“IT REQUIRED YEARS OF EFFORT TO DEVELOP A SOLUTION THAT COULD MEET OUR STRINGENT USER PRIVACY REQUIREMENTS. TO ACCOMPLISH THIS, WE DEVELOPED A NEW, CUSTOM ENCRYPTION TECHNOLOGY THAT ENSURES USERS’ DATA REMAINS PRIVATE, SECURE, AND ANONYMOUS.”
Google AdWords clients will get access to the new feature for no additional costs as part of an update to the platform over the next few months in the U.S. Other markets, like Europe, might show some more resilience about implementing these techniques because of legislation that might soon prohibit it.