back to article Google now mingles everything you've bought with everywhere you've been

In a move with echoes of the fictional internet giant described in Dave Eggers' The Circle, Google's has begun trawling through billions of personal credit card records, matching them to your browser, location and advertising histories. In The Circle, the eponymous company achieves birth-to-death information dominance, or " …

  1. JimmyPage
    Big Brother

    Paying by cash ...

    until the government (under the guise of "anti terror") starts recording note serial numbers at the POS terminal ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Paying by cash ...

      I believe that's the hidden purpose of "Where's George?" To develop a means of tracking notes from place to place and de-anonymize cash.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first


    Gave them permission to do this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who?

      you did....I take it you read the Terms and Conditions of your Credit Card and Android phone?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who?

        Interestingly Apple has similar terms an conditions for iPhone. Go check their privacy statement, lots of mention of the word advertising......

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Who?

          True, Apple, the ISPs, etc they are all trying to do the same thing. Microsoft is trying to do the same thing with Windows 10.

          Probably not the end of the world, but it doesn't seem right that the licensed and pay for tech providers are doing this sort of thing, meaning Apple and Microsoft. Google makes most of their money placing ads, everyone knows that. The deal is free, great Google technology and then Google makes money via ad placement... or, alternatively, you pay Google for tech, G Suite for instance, and they have strict terms of service in which they don't take any data or place any ads. Two separate worlds and no double charging. You pay either directly or via ads. Fair enough. Apple and especially Microsoft with Windows 10 seems like a double dip... as Microsoft is taking billions of dollars in licensing for their tech, making a big deal about how Google places ads... and then going ahead and doing the same thing with Windows 10, or attempting to, but they also still want people and businesses to pay them a huge amount for licenses. That is excessive and not what people think they are signing up for. Likewise with the ISPs. If you are paying for service, and the rates have not gone down, it is pretty underhanded for the ISPs to grab a second stream of income via data without people realizing it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who?

      Milton Friedman, Thatcher, Regan, Alan Greenspan, and so on.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "Milton Friedman, Thatcher, Regan, Alan Greenspan, and so on."

        It goes far in the past. Actually, in the Bills of Right, privacy is absent.

        It's good EU thinks differently, and maybe here Google will be barred before going too far.

        1. naive Silver badge

          Re: "Milton Friedman, Thatcher, Regan, Alan Greenspan, and so on."

          Your reply is so spot on.

          Milton Friedman wrote this, the currency to pay for all these data centers costing billions to provide all these "free" services is ... your privacy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who?

      Why would you think they need permission?

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "Gave them permission to do this?"

      It's a free market, did you not know?

      They are free to cross reference your data from other sources to build a very detailed picture of you that they can sell to retailers for money

      Your free to give them your data.

      That's a corporations definition of a free market.

      1. VinceH

        Re: "Gave them permission to do this?"

        "Your free to give them your data."

        I think for most people that should probably be "You're free to not realise you're giving them your data, or the implications of doing so."

    5. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Who?

      surely the credit card companies are breaking the law, at least in Europe, if they provide transaction history?

      That said, I only use my credit card for online sales, so it wouldn't help anyway. Everything bought in the "real" world is either cash or debit card. My bank definitely cannot hand over that transaction information, at least not legally.

  3. Ben Rose

    Did you know?

    Your GPS location data is constantly tracked on Android?

    Amusingly the repetition of this point alone made me realise that Andrew O had written this article.

    Does he have shares in Apple?

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Did you know?

      But.... Andrew O gives the impression that he does not like Apple... Confused.... I need a beer.

    2. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: Did you know?

      You, me and most of comentards :) here are well aware of the GPS being turned on by default and savy enough to turn off the WiFi, mobile data and location when not needed, but think of all the other tech challenged human beings (around 90% by all counts) who are not aware of the tracking built into their phones.

      Try telling somebody that their mobile provider can pinpoint a turned on phone within a couple of meters and they'll look at you like you're talking magic.

  4. vir

    "We developed a new, custom encryption technology..."

    I know Google's big, but isn't "don't roll your own crypto" rule number 0 of crypto?

    1. Flakk

      Re: "We developed a new, custom encryption technology..."

      About ten years ago, I performed a risk analysis of Google cloud services. At that time, Google did not encrypt data-at-rest on their systems. They chose to encode the data instead, for performance reasons.

      I wonder if their "custom encryption" is likewise built for speed. Too bad for you if it's weak and/or buggy. Their regulatory checkbox is checked.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Public executions...remember those?

    Honestly, public executions never left. It's just now they occur on the streets between citizens, then they are sold to you with "news" channels at 11pm.

    But what about poloiticians and greedy execs? They are not out there dying like we are. This seems unbalanced. How about a mandatory public execution of politicians? Yes, a few innocent ones will die, but how many innocent die daily that aren't poloticians, 10, 100, 1000?

    So after many centuries of working towards peace, it seems saddening but real that the Aztecs had it right so long ago: You today, me tomorrow.

    P.S. It can even be rationalized that the modern version of flowering wars is business exctracting citizens lifestyle for sacrificial capitalism.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would I want to use Google for anything?

    Answers on a pinhead please. Don't all rush.

    Google wants to know what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner, what you are wearing and the complete contents of your sock drawer.

    IT wants to know what you are thinking every seconds of the day.

    Add all that together and they will sling you lots of ads.

    The same goes for Facebook as well.

    It really is time to give these behmoths the finger and tell them where to stuff their snooping and ad slinging.

    I'd better go now before the Alphabet Police come knocking at my door for not being part of the collective.

  7. JustAnotherPoster

    Yes multiple trips to syria go missed and ignored by our security services.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's because they don't use phones.

      Not long till not using a phone flags you up with the security services.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not long till not using a phone flags you up with the security services.

        The majority of UK attacks since and including 7/7 have been by people "known to the security services". A pity they don't do much about these people.

        1. AdamWill


          The thing is, that's such a vague phrase that just about *everyone* qualifies for it.

        2. Roj Blake

          "A pity they don't do much about these people."

          MI5 have to let a few attacks through to maintain their funding and gain enhanced powers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Have you forgotten? It's not that long ago that the media and government were supportive of Brits heading out to Syria, around 2011-12, to help de-stabilise the place and overthrow Assad. The fools completely misunderstood what was really going on there until Wikileaks revealed that our "allies" were supporting ISIS and Al-Nusra. Now they are back-pedalling like crazy, monitoring all our comms and files, and yet they still can't prevent those idiots from coming back and harming us. Next it will be microchips embedded in our bodies...

  8. VIA_KT133

    It seems that after all it does pay to be paranoid.

  9. DJ Smiley

    They came for my data.... and I gave it them.

    In return they gave me useful/fun services.

    I'd much prefer to be able to 'correct' the data they have on me, at least then I might get relevant adverts :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They came for my data.... and I gave it them.

      I'm not sure that the services are that great.

      Search is an advertising engine first, and your result is always a page or two away from the initial returned ads. Maps is ok, but pretty rubbish for driving navigation compared to a TomTom. And Google has a reputation for starting up a bunch of other services and then throwing them away with little warning. All Web apps such as Gmail and Docs are truly rubbish compared to well written native equivalents. Android itself still does not deliver slick'n'smooth apps thanks to the use of Java; every other mobile platform out there uses native code, and it shows. And the battery life on your Android phone is sacrificed so that Google get to know where you are and what you're doing.

      Google does the bare minimum to capture the most data.

      The more I read about what Google does and how little control it gives you over your own data, the more I'm disinclined to use their services. I'm sticking with my BlackBerry 10 mobe.

  10. Trey Pattillo

    Not so fast

    1-GPS/Location turned of on Android, yes is is a hassle but I deal with the inconvenience [note I do not live my life on my phone]. Only Emergency [911/999/etc] get location override.

    2-PrivateInterntAccess[.com] 5 device account including phone & linux, why I got them

    3-Adguard + UBlock on desktop browsers

    4-Opera default browser on desktop [minimal ~must use~ of others]

    5-OperaMini and/or AdBlock Browser on phone.

    6-use DuckDuckGo search first

    Did I miss anything?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not so fast

      > Did I miss anything?

      Probably better to not use Android.

      1. Christian Berger

        It's not like there is a choice

        It's not like you have much choice in the mobile world. Location tracking via WIFI over a central server is, unfortunately, standard by now. It's just that Apple doesn't yet have an advertisement branch... yet.

        Unfortunately you cannot simply run something like Debian on your mobile phone, removing all that crap the manufacturer put on there.

        Essentially in the long run, we're probably better off with mobile terminals connecting to our own servers. Essentially you'd make something about the form factor of a "Pocket CHIP" with WIFI and a separate simple microcontroller running the terminal. You'd then use an LTE router to connect to the Internet. For telephony you'd use a simple "dumb-phone", yes those still exist!

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Probably better to not use Android.

        That new Nokia 3310 is becoming more and more appealing... not a surprise it was sold out so fast...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not so fast

      Not turning the phone on in the first place is a sure fire winner though not exactly practical.

      Nice list but you did miss one thing though,

      Root phone and install droid wall then disable internet access via wifi, mobile network or both to chosen apps. Black or White list, your choice.

    3. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Not so fast

      Did I miss anything?

      7. Disable WiFi.

      Any app with "view available WiFi connections" and network access can geolocate you based on the SSIDs and signal strengths of nearby WiFi networks. This works even if location services are disabled. All they have to do is exfiltrate the SSID data and match it to database info on their end, instead of reading it from your device. A VPN will not protect you from this.

    4. The obvious

      Re: Not so fast

      You missed a hell of a lot. I really do sound like some kind of tinfoil-helmeted nutter when I get onto the subject but I have a simple test - google say if you don't like their services, don't use them.

      Try it - blackhole all routes to Google's IP space (the info's available online) and to their DNS servers... and then try to go about your normal daily business. I give you a matter of minutes (at most) of trying to get something done online before you need to open an exception even if you claim not to use their services.

      Only when you really disconnect from them and get yourself out of their direct sight will you get even a rough idea of how much you actually give up to googles services. But that only covers the half of the equation which is the data that YOU give them directly. That doesn't begin to touch the data that other people add to their services about you - which is where things get *really* tricky.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for the EU to get involved

    This should trigger an EU anti-monopoly ruling.

    Hopefully they break Google into pieces. Small ones that don't talk to each other.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time for the EU to get involved

      America tried that with AT&T and look what happened. Big as ever. Try to break up a big company and they'll just find ways to come back together, working around whatever laws you put up because they're TRANSnational in nature and can use foreign sovereignty against you.

  12. Doctor_Wibble

    Closing the loop or tightening the noose?

    But obviously not so tight as to cause the user to notice, perhaps 'leash' would be a better term, one of those extra-extendy leashes with a sharp pull-back via service withdrawal, or possibly a sudden lack of credit score because you dared to log out.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Big Brother

    They know their Lenin

    "Push the bayonet in. If it meet fat, push harder."

    So far all they've met is fat.

    And they keep pushing.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Different strokes...

    Times have changed. People buy crap and then make it their mission to make sure the world knows about it - I doubt they give a rats tail about card companies and Google swapping stories.

    Besides, if you are using credit cards or are old enough to know what a paper check is, then your bank has known all about your bad habits for years! Same goes for stores - yes they capture your name and what you purchased. Now all of a sudden people are freaked out because Google is using that same data to echo that you looked at this ad and went to that store? Even if we go back to the days of mail order from paper catalogs - we placed orders and wrote checks, and the store kept the data. Pretty sure they knew who we were.

    I say I'm over it. I look at my phone to check the weather, read some email, read product reviews, and a few other nonsense things. Yeah Google knows who I am, where I live, where I went, etc. and they are making money off of it. At least I know who they are and what info they have, which is far better than the crap governments do (i.e, selling voter registration data, putting home property details online for public consumption, ...), and then the outrageous abuse of credit profiles that Equifax, Transuion, and Experion have been making killings on for years, car now come with tracking enabled from the manufacturer,... - who the crap authorized them? I can leave my phone at home, use my landline when at home, pay cash, etc. Basically give Google the middle finger and tell them to go away. For these other SOB's, not so easy.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's easy to get paranoid and emotional about this kind of thing, but between the 4 tech giants + 5 Eyes we really have no hope of any privacy whatsoever. I predict people will, if not already, switch off and revert back to the traditional ways of communicating and exchanging goods and services.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Orwellian

      Too late for that. Cameras, mics, and satellites are on their way to tracking face-to-face conversations, indoors and out.

  16. ST Silver badge

    privacy violations aside ...

    I'm just wondering: how useful is this information Google is collecting?

    Yes, it's an invasion of privacy, and it reeks of paranoia and Big Brother. I didn't expect any less from Google. But matching credit card purchases with locations: how useful is this, really?

    For example: I went to Duane Reade yesterday and I got toothpaste and toilet paper. How interesting.

    The bank already had that information, because I paid with credit card. Now Google has it too. So, what can they learn from it? That I use toothpaste and toilet paper, and that I buy these items periodically? And that I prefer buying them at a certain specific Duane Reade because it's close to my apartment?

    This whole data collection and matching exercise just strikes me as a complete waste of time. Google will learn a bunch of completely irrelevant things everyone else already knew.

    1. The obvious

      Re: privacy violations aside ...

      It's incredibly useful. Just because you don't understand how doesn't change that.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "how useful is this, really?"

      As I wrote already, Google needs to lull its customers into believing web ads actually work, because more and more are going to be disenchanted.

      So they will match data as they like - did you buy toilet paper? Of course it's not because you finished your last roll and need some new ones, no, it's because they flashed you an ad of that brand a few days before (an ad you ignored wholly....), and of course you felt the incredible need you never had before to buy toilet paper.

      There's a big chance sometimes somewhere they put an ad for something you buy (if routinely, even better), so Google will exploit it to tell advertiser "ads really work!!!!". And they will have a way to sell their A(d)I

  17. JeffyPoooh

    I've got them beat...

    They may have my data, but that doesn't mean that they actually know me...

    Yes, I bought a TV. But I don't actually use it. I only switch the TV on perhaps once a month to empty out the PVR hard drive. Nobody actually watches TV any more...



  18. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Not sure it would be legal in the EU?

    IANAL, but I seem to remember that under the various Data Protection laws in the EU the Credit Card companies and the banks can swap info for certain limited purposes, such as combatting and investigating fraud, evaluating credit applications etc, but that's about it. I'm pretty sure flogging the raw data is a very big no-no!

    I'm probably wrong though...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another good reason to avoid Android

    Or use one of the Chinese Androids that's had all the Googley bits excised from it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Another good reason to avoid Android

      Only to be replaces with CHINESE bits inserted to replace them. And before you say, "Who cares?" don't forget China's busily engaged in an economic war with the West, too, so there CAN be serious consequences.

      1. Christian Berger

        Re: Another good reason to avoid Android

        Well actually, as a German, I have never seen my government defending me against the US, or US companies. (see NSA scandal) However there might be a tiny little chance they might do something against the Chinese.

        BTW economic wars typically aren't between countries, but between the ultra-rich and the rest.

  20. hitmouse

    Given that Google interprets all dates in my data stream as MM/DD/YYYY despite location and language settings predicating DD/MM/YYYY, it makes a royal mess of things.

  21. FozzyBear


    Long gone the days of their catch phrase.

    "First do no evil"

    I've seen shows where individuals, even whole families have turned their backs on the modern world. Rather than being the hill billy rednecks I thought they were. They may just be the smartest people on the planet

  22. VeganVegan

    Can't resist

    Eclipse (Waters)

    All that you touch

    All that you see

    All that you taste

    All you feel.

    All that you love

    All that you hate

    All you distrust

    All you save.

    All that you give

    All that you deal

    All that you buy,

    beg, borrow or steal.

    All you create

    All you destroy

    All that you do

    All that you say.

    All that you eat

    And everyone you meet

    All that you slight

    And everyone you fight.

    All that is now

    All that is gone

    All that's to come

    and everything under the sun is in tune

    but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paying by cash just became mandatory....

    Feel like a Jew trying to hide from the 'data' Nazi's:


    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Paying by cash just became mandatory....

      And then you find out they can track that, too. Consider "Where's George?".

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Google Attribution'

    What I want to know is, when is 'Google Retribution' coming?

  25. Roj Blake

    Store Loyalty Cards

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if they also buy up loyalty card information to get data on cash purchases.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Store Loyalty Cards

      I have one store card. I use it when buying Petrol and only then. As this is done at one of two stores, they are welcome to that data especially as I never buy anything in the stores themselves unless it is to redeem the points on the card. Then I'll buy something I'd not normally buy but that is once every 6-9 months.

      The rest of the time, it is cash only for my daily and weekly shopping.

      I don't use Google at all, even for DNS. I don't use an Android phone and my phone has WiFi and 3G/4G disabled unless I want to actually use data.

      By actively minimising my Google (and Facebook etc for that matter) exposure I'm keeping my self as close to anonymous as possible.

      If you search for my proper name on Google, I do not appear and that's how I want to keep it until the Clock strikes 13 by which time, I'll probably be drooling and close to death.

      I am not a Number (6 or anything else for that matter)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Store Loyalty Cards

        Just because you don't appear doesn't mean Google and Facebook don't already know about you through publicly-available records.

  26. oneeye

    It's Not Google, But the Government Who Knows All

    When we signed up for an online account for Social Security, the program asked us tons of personal questions, of which they already k new the answers to. Like what kind of car we owned TEN years before. What Credit Cards and expiration dates, previous addresses going back decades, etc, etc, etc. Finally after nearly an hour of these questions, I only completed one sign up. I mean Yikes, they had it all, and if you messed up, the program said so.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They call it 'closing the loop'

    But what they really mean is 'tightening the noose'...

  28. Jeffrey Nonken

    "Did you know Google would be acquiring your credit card record when you signed up for your card?"

    I signed up for my card before Google existed so, no, I'd say it's fair to say that I did not know, nor was there any way I could have known.

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