FTC Complaint: Google Tracking Offline Shopping Habits

The Federal Trade Commission is being asked to investigate Google's new advertising program that ties consumers' online behavior to purchases in brick-and-mortar stores.

Mark Rotenberg with the Electronic Privacy Information Center says Google is gaining access to credit and debit card purchases without revealing how or offering ways to opt out.

“Specifically, they're trying to match what you buy in a store as against the advertising you see online,” he says.

At issue is whether Google's method is vulnerable to hacks or other data breaches.

“EPIC is saying they're using CryptDB and its a broken security technology and Google says we're using something different now, but they wouldn't say what it was,” says Rotenberg.  “That from our perspective just adds to the need for the Federal Trade Commission to take a closer look.”

Google has already paid multi-million-dollar fines to settle FTC charges on privacy issues.

“We as a privacy organization have certainly had a lot of experiences with other Internet companies in the past that said don't worry, no privacy problem here, and then when we looked more closely we realized there actually was a privacy problem,” says Rotenberg.

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