Google is following you — literally. The company, known for its privacy-invading tendencies, has moved beyond the online world and is now interested in tracking you offline. Google has launched a test campaign, tracking in-store purchases to find out whether its online ads are effective in increasing in-store sales. Google wants those buying ad space to be sure their investments are paying off.
To do this, Google is partnering with data collection companies Acxiom and DataLogix, who will help the company match in-store customers with Internet users who are clicking on its search ads. These data brokers have access to a great deal of information about in-store purchases through loyalty cards and other marketing programs.
Why it’s important for companies to connect online
browsing & offline purchases.
“People are spending most of their time online, but the vast majority of their consumption still happens offline. So tying those two things together is critical. That’s why more and more online marketing channels are opening up to offline transaction data.” says Eric Stein, executive vice president of marketing intelligence agency Epsilon.
While tracking allow companies to increase profitability, linking offline transactions to online ads raise clear privacy concerns for consumers. Ironically, one the of companies included in the test campaign is Michaels, who recently confirmed 2.6 million credit cards were compromised in an 8-month period in their brick-and-mortar stores.
If you’re tracked by search queries, click on an ad with the intention to buy, and then purchase offline and have your credit card information breached, companies will know a whole lot of information about you.
What you can do to protect yourself
Where will the line be drawn? Simply going about your daily routine is increasing companies’ profits, yet you see no benefit from being tracked. The only way to protect yourself is to be proactive and stay one step ahead of these companies. Here are 3 easy steps to avoid linking your browsing online with offline purchases.
- Avoid using Google as a search engine. Instead, use private search engine, DuckDuckGo.
- Add DoNotTrackMe to your desktop. Combining DNTMe with DuckDuckGo, Google will not be able to track you online.
- Add DoNotTrackMe to your smartphone. With DNTMe Mobile, you can create Masked Cards on the go. A Masked Card is a private, one time use credit card that we generate for you. If you use a Masked Card during in-store purchases there will be no record that you have bought anything, for the whole process was privatized by DNTMe. To the merchant it will look like Abine made the purchase.
By creating layers of separation between yourself and Google — both online and offline — you can stay private despite their best attempts to know everything about you.