CNBC's latest breaking news puts Google at the center of the spotlight, as it appears the company has been quietly keeping track of everyone's online purchases by virtue of receipts sent to their personal Gmail account.
Oddly, this information is available to view via a private web tool that's been active for an unspecified amount of time.
Google Stores Your Purchase History
The tool is still live as of this writing. Some reports say purchases stretch as far back as 2010 but in theory should show all items a person has bought since the first time they created their Gmail account. Purchases from third-party stores, such as the App Store, should show up as well provided a person's Apple account is linked to their Gmail. It also includes real-word transactions facilitated via credit cards, perhaps due to point of sale software providers such as Square and others that link credit card numbers to an associated email for receipt deliveries.
Google has issued a statement addressing CNBC's report.
"To help you easily view and keep track of your purchases, bookings and subscriptions in one place, we've created a private destination that can only be seen by you," the company said. "You can delete this information at any time. We don't use any information from your Gmail messages to serve you ads, and that includes the email receipts and confirmations shown on the Purchase page." Google failed to say how long this tool has been active.
As per CNBC, Google says it does not use purchase history information for personalized ad tracking. By extension, Google said back in 2017 that it would halt using data collected from Gmail messages to personalize ads. Users are free to delete their purchase history, but they'll have to erase each one individually.
Like many other companies, Google has a treasure trove of what's perhaps the most valuable thing in the world of consumer technology — data. That includes photos, files, passwords, and, as it's been made clear now, purchases. The Verge notes that Google gets all this information mostly through background data collection, employing methods users may not be aware of.
There's no record or evidence of Google using Gmail users' purchase history data to target them with personalized ads, to be sure. Still, it does yet again highlight Google's difficulty of being completely transparent about what sort of information it collects from users, which isn't a good practice now in the era of heightened panic over data security and privacy.
This story is developing. Make sure to check back with Tech Times as we learn more.