New to Busy?

Google's Secret Deal To Make Ad Revenue Off of Your Offline Credit Card Purchases - Humans Reading Your Gmail is A Common Practice and Even ShapeShift is Going To Be Asking For Your Personal Information


8 months agoBusy6 min read

The main source of revenue for Alphabet Inc. is ads. If they could prove that their ads resulted in offline sales, that would allow they to reap more money from advertisers. It makes total buissness sense. But when it comes to privacy, that's just madness. But that's exactly what happened with Alphabet Inc. and Mastercard Incorporated. The deal isn't even public yet. It was revealed by Bloomberg. Here is the original new report.

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.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the partnership with Mastercard, but addressed the ads tool. "Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information,” the company said in a statement. “We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.” The company said people can opt out of ad tracking using Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console.

As you'd expect, the opt out feature is buried so deep that only a very few people are ever going to opt out. I'm willing to bet that most of the users who are coming from developing nations like India won't even figure out how to opt out on their own and on top of that, most people are not going to kow that they can even opt out.


That's Actually Just Touching The Surface

Most news outlets including BBC have just reported the above part and called it just another day of eroding privacy. But things go way deeper than just this one secret deal.

Last year, when Google announced the service, called "Store Sales Measurement," the company just said it had access to "approximately 70 percent" of U.S. credit and debit cards through partners, without naming them. That 70 percent could mean that the company has deals with other credit card companies, totaling 70 percent of the people who use credit and debit cards. Or it could mean that the company has deals with companies that include all card users, and 70 percent of those are logged into Google accounts like Gmail when they click on a Google search ad.

Let me re-quote a portion: "the company has deals with other credit card companies, totaling 70 percent of the people who use credit and debit cards. Or it could mean that the company has deals with companies that include all card users, and 70 percent of those are logged into Google accounts like Gmail when they click on a Google search ad." That's just a terrible hing to hear. But I'm not surprised. Most of the world's phones are Android and Playstore does ask your credit card information when you need to pay for an app.

I'm also not very sure about the opt out part being anything more than a semi-opt out.There are reasons for my skepticism. Google has tracked users despite turning off location history. Here is a research published 3 weeks ago:

  • Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you open the Maps app
  • Automatic weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where a user is


Tech’s ‘Dirty Secret’: The App Developers Sifting Through Your Gmail

One of those companies is Return Path Inc., which collects data for marketers by scanning the inboxes of more than two million people who have signed up for one of the free apps in Return Path’s partner network using a Gmail, Microsoft Corp. or Yahoo email address. Computers normally do the scanning, analyzing about 100 million emails a day. At one point about two years ago, Return Path employees read about 8,000 unredacted emails to help train the company’s software, people familiar with the episode say.

Just imagine what could have been in those 8000 E-mails and then you'll have to remember that this is just one company. A lot of people did at a lot of places did this.

In another case, employees of Edison Software, another Gmail developer that makes a mobile app for reading and organizing email, personally reviewed the emails of hundreds of users to build a new feature, says Mikael Berner, the company’s CEO.

Google says it provides data only to outside developers it has vetted and to whom users have explicitly granted permission to access email. But they can technically do whatever they want and say whatever they want. The problem is that they have access in the first place. Imagine how things would have been if postal services did this.

The WSJ article linked in the heading has much more details and it is worth a read unlike some random 150 word click bait privacy encroachment articles. Just allow me to share the worst part of the entire article.

Letting employees read user emails has become “common practice” for companies that collect this type of data, says Thede Loder, the former chief technology officer at eDataSource Inc., a rival to Return Path. He says engineers at eDataSource occasionally reviewed emails when building and improving software algorithms.“Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret,” says Mr. Loder. “It’s kind of reality.”

Even ShapeShift Has Introduced Optional Identification Requirements

The practice of requiring customers to hand over personal private information is one we’ve struggled with since inception. To the extent that digital asset technology remains a legal grey area, we need to be prudent and thoughtful in our approach as we navigate the regulatory environment.

It's not really their fault. Running a business is hard and so far they have provided a valuable service to the crypto community and they are still not making the whole thing mandatory. I respect them for that. But they too are citizens that are subject to governemnt regulation and SWAT teams.(Does Anybody remember the Arise Bank:

But the optional membership won't stay like that for long. You can read their official statement here:


Sort byBest