A Google program intended to help push retail and sales into the modern era reportedly has at least one watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, seriously concerned about data privacy. In fact, the concerns expressed will have made it all the way to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on July 31, which is the date the firm is set to file its complaint with the regulating body. The vast majority of Google's wide-spanning tech empire is dependent on advertising dollars to exist. So it should come as no surprise that the company is always looking for ways to capitalize further on that front. However, as is always the case with data privacy, the watchdog group is worried that consumers won't be informed enough to make the decisions they may otherwise make. Additionally, they posit that, without more transparency from Google data security cannot be guaranteed.
The filing asserts first that Google having access to the company's claimed 70 percent of U.S. customers credit or debit card records should not go unchecked. While Google also claims that its users have complete control over what is collected, as well as being able to wipe those records for themselves, the Electronic Privacy Information Center says that there are many layers to the problem and that oversight is needed because Google's privacy controls are not always clearly defined for users. In its defense, Google has also said that its as-yet-unnamed data sources have the right to use the data but that actually seems to compound the problem, according to the watchdog. That's because users data is being collected not just by Google directly, but is also taken from retailers and other outlets, which adds another layer of complexity that a consumer needs to be mindful of. Moreover, without the sources being named, it becomes more difficult for privacy-minded consumers to know whether or where their data is being used. The main concern from that is, of course, that data can be used to determine more than just shopping habits since purchases and online behavior can reveal a user's lifestyle, health, personal beliefs, religion, and other information.
As to the program itself, which has been dubbed as "Store Sales Measurement," it is intended to provide advertisers and associated groups with data to show how online interaction affects purchases in the real world. Store Sales Measurement could be a serious boost for advertisers and the companies they represent. It would accomplish this by showing which online advertisements and other information are helpful in driving consumers to buy once they get offline. That could help consumers too since it helps those advertisers to learn what customers are really looking for. Google, meanwhile, says that it has invested to create a completely new, custom-made encryption for the program, to keep its users' data "private, secure, and anonymous." Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is concerned that without auditing of those encryption methods, whether or not they actually work cannot be gauged.