Privacy watchdog asks FTC to investigate Google's offline shopping tracker

Privacy watchdog asks FTC to investigate Google's offline shopping tracker
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A privacy watchdog group has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate how Google analyzes credit card data to track consumers’ offline shopping habits.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) says that Google has not been forthcoming about the privacy safeguards in its program and wrote in its complaint that the opt-out process for consumers is “burdensome, opaque, and misleading.”

“EPIC asks the Commission to investigate Google, enjoin its unfair and deceptive business practices, and require Google to protect the privacy of its users,” the complaint reads.

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Google announced in May that it would be launching “store sales measurement,” a new tool that will allow its advertisers to track whether their online ads are leading to in-store purchases.

The company pushed back against the complaint, insisting that it only has access to aggregated, anonymized data and not personally identifiable information about consumers’ shopping habits.

"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,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

“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."

Google also said that users can easily opt out of the service by going to “Activity Controls” in their account settings and toggling off the “Web and App Activity” option.

But it’s unclear how consumers can opt out of having third parties share their credit card information, and EPIC asked the FTC to compel Google to reveal more information about its partnerships with merchants and third-party data brokers.