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Google & Mastercard have secret deal to track offline shopping to online ad clicks – report

Google has reportedly partnered with Mastercard, the second largest credit card network in the US, to get millions of dollars worth of data on its customers, according to a bombshell report by Bloomberg.

The existence of a clandestine deal between the two market giants was first reported on Thursday. Citing "four people with the knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly," the magazine reported that the agreement, which is bound to stoke new privacy concerns, was the fruit of four years of negotiations.

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The alleged deal allows Google to link ads that a user clicks to what they buy in stores using their card. If there's a match, Google provides feedback to the advertiser. The scheme works only if a customer is logged into a Google account and has not switched off Google Ad Tracking, a rather tricky process that takes several stages to accomplish.

It has become possible to assess how online ads influence consumer behavior thanks to the Store Sales Measurement tool, unveiled by Google in May 2017. The feature can find a connection between clicks on digital ads and purchases in bricks-and-mortar stores. Part of the solution matches clicks with purchases in offline stores, made with debit or credit cards. The feature works only if the purchase is made within 30 days of the click.

When asked to comment on the previously unknown deal, Google and Mastercard have neither denied nor confirmed its existence. Both companies, however, insisted that they do not study the activity of individual consumers and provide their customers with aggregated depersonalized data.

"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," Google said, responding to the report.

Mastercard has also denied that it provided personal information to any third parties, saying it only offers merchants and service providers "trends based on aggregated and anonymized data."

"We do not provide insights that track, serve up ads to, or even measure ad effectiveness relating to, individual consumers," the company told the BBC.

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