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Google uses receipts sent to Gmail to log online purchases

By mongeese · 15 replies
May 18, 2019
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  1. It’s been two years since Google formally declared they would stop using the data they gathered from Gmail for ad targeting purposes, yet here we stand: they’re collating massive amounts of purchasing information supposedly “to help you easily view and keep track of your purchases,” without telling you they’re doing so. The only way to delete that purchase record is by deleting every single email receipt you’ve ever received, one by one. Oh, and though Google says you can turn off purchase tracking in settings, no one can actually find the setting.

    For some people, this isn’t an issue. Personally, I don’t use my Gmail very often and I don’t make purchases online, so my purchase record only contains my Steam games and a few Play Store purchases. But for many of the one-and-a-half billion users of Gmail, their purchase records will contain their weekly shopping itinerary, Amazon purchase history, and details on what they wear and what they watch. For a significant portion of Gmail users, the purchase record ‘feature’ may be Google’s most invasive product and one they’ve never heard of.

    Just last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in the New York Times: “To make privacy real, we give you clear, meaningful choices around your data. All while staying true to two unequivocal policies: that Google will never sell any personal information to third parties; and that you get to decide how your information is used.”

    The second ‘policy’ looks like a bare-faced lie in light of today’s discovery, and the first ‘policy’ is meaningless when Google is just as likely to mistreat your data as any third-party.

    How much you trust Google is up to you, but it’s worth noting that a history of your purchases is by far the most useful data point for predicting future purchases. While it’s probably true that Google doesn’t “use any information from your Gmail messages to serve you ads,” they might be using all that data to feed AIs, develop consumer spending models, and to determine how successful their targeted advertising is.

    Unfortunately, deleting your purchase record is an irritating process that requires you to forward all receipts to a non-Gmail email account if you want to keep them. To see the offending emails, click on a purchase in the record then hit “Remove Purchase” at the bottom.

    For the privacy conscious, the best way to prevent Google from continuing to record your purchases is to switch to a new email provider. Personally, I recommend finding a service like Tutanota, an open-source end-to-end encrypted email service. To distance yourself even further from Google, try a non-Chrome browser like Vivaldi or Firefox and switch to DuckDuckGo for searches.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Wessell Urdata

    Wessell Urdata TS Booster Posts: 47   +67

    Thanks for tracking my CS:GO skin purchase records, Google. You definitely have to do that
  3. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,669   +2,427

    Its mind-boggling how readily people trust anyone who gives them something for nothing. Unless you're dealing with a truly altruistic institution or individual there is ALWAYS a price.
    DaveBG and onestepforward like this.
  4. TruthFL

    TruthFL TS Rookie

    They have been doing this for 5 or so years. They announced it as a feature. Just google My Purchases and all your Purchases are displayed. You guys are a little late.
  5. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,815   +3,909

    Amazon is at least as much of a nuisance as Google in this respect. You can't buy a blessed thing from them, without receiving tender offers for a dozen more similar item by way of email...., (from Google).

    Google then extracts that information, and "does you a big favor", by placing "targeted ads", at the top of your incoming mail stack.

    Here's the thing though. If you ignore them they'll go away, (like a fever blister), but if you click them away, Google has the chutzpah to as you why you dismissed the ad.

    There is one small consolation though, since I won't buy anything from these ads, or even bother to read them, I get to laugh about how Google ripped off these fools that placed that ads.

    What should annoy you, is likely how much of your dollar, when buying auto insurance, a car, or getting a, "new revolutionary prescription" filled, goes toward advertising that crap

    And yes, boyz & gurlz, all those ad dollars spent are tax deductible. :eek:

    Last edited: May 18, 2019
    PEnnn likes this.
  6. Digitalzone

    Digitalzone TS Booster Posts: 97   +47

    "To distance yourself even further from Google, try a non-Chrome browser like Vivaldi or Firefox and switch to DuckDuckGo for searches."
    oh. I just switched to Chrome after Firefox blocked extensions for several days without proper reaction.
  7. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,810   +667

    Now they know I like lawnmowers and airplane models and rush for weaving and all kinds of benign stuff. It ain't cool they do this but the guy who collects dildos...LOL
  8. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,815   +3,909

    You'd think they'd smarten up. After all, how many lawnmowers does one person need?

    Think of the poor guy whose wife collects them. He's bound to feel, unwanted, unneeded, and unloved, should he accidentally stumble upon her email
    Reehahs and tomkaten like this.
  9. HyPeroxya

    HyPeroxya TS Enthusiast Posts: 80   +10

    Will write to GMail and ask to have my records expunged under the GDPR .. Wonder what sort of reaction that will get . Already use firefox and , sometimes, DDG, may have to start using tutanova .. but how to extract yourself from gmail in an orderly manner ?
  10. dogofwars

    dogofwars TS Addict Posts: 175   +71

    Is that news?
    DaveBG and techonlinebd like this.
  11. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,815   +3,909

    You know strangely enough, Google has a Indian CEO, as does M$ these days. Now, at the risk of being labeled, "racist", I see some commonalities between the two business. What with M$ literally ramming Windows 10 down peoples, and then there's Google's "broken promises", (as if they were ever going to be met), about not culling your data and selling it.

    Country wide, India has some of the most unsavory business tactics ever developed.

    Do any of you think it's a "coincidence" that all of the scam call centers are in India? Because if you do, you most likely couldn't pass an IQ test, if somebody handed you the answer sheet.

    I got a phone call from a nice girl named "Angela", with a very prominent Indian accent. The first thing she did, was to start asking me was, "what kind of home security system do you have installed"? So I said, "so you're 'Angela', from nowhere in particular, and you want to know who has my security contract, and the alarm system's manufacturer".

    At which point she mumbled something about "Honeywell", and the snotty little b!tch hung up on me, just when I was going to give her directions to my house, and my alarm codes.

    I actually see a well defined cultural connection between the way these scam call centers do business, and the overall demeanor of Indian business methodology in general.

    As customers, they're the absolute worst nightmare that can walk into your store.. The haggling is endless, and the only thing you can do to end it, is to simply walk away and wait on somebody else .

    These people, with their business and cultural lack of principled ethical business paradigms, are now the "captains of the computer industry", and what you're getting in the way of treatment from them, is exactly what you should expect, period.

    When you think about it, isn't Windows 10's forced updates and data strip mining, pretty much the same thing as some nice Indian gentleman calling you on the phone and telling "your computer is broken, and you need me to help you fix it". (BTW, his name was "Tommy", and he had an Indian accent so thick you could cut it with a knife). Yeah M$ is further up the ladder than good old Winston, Billy, Isaac,or whatever the f*** his name was, but barely by a rung...

    Coming back fully to the topic of browser tracking, yeah, it's annoying as hell, but at least Opera, (Chrome engine), does have a built in ad blocker). I know, because sites are always asking me to turn it off).

    Personally I'm not foolish enough to get tangled up with Amazon with repeating purchases. They're bad enough hounding you after a one of a kind buy. Then too nowadays, you have some manifest obligation to review the product, and the "Amazon Marketplace Seller" who sent it to you.

    Sometimes it gives me pause to wonder if it wouldn't be less complicated to walk into a retail outlet, buy something, refuse to give them an email address, pay too much for it, walk out, and be done with it.
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
    Reehahs likes this.
  12. jpuroila

    jpuroila TS Enthusiast Posts: 55   +30

    Sounds like a very clear GDPR violation. Hopefully they get slammed with a big fine for this.
  13. Badvok

    Badvok TS Maniac Posts: 292   +147

    Hmm, has anyone actually checked the truth of this article? For me it shows no purchases at all despite me ordering huge amounts of stuff online using my gmail address including my weekly grocery shop and even purchasing things from Google themselves. Perhaps this is something you have to opt-in to?
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,815   +3,909

    Fairly often, I have "targeted ads", at the top of my in box which correspond to many of my interests, things I have shopped, or things related to things I have already bought. I don't think all Googles ad's topics are merely a coincidence either, although I suppose some of them could be.

    Amazon is a far bigger PitA, since their ads ARE actual Email, are targeted directly at your most recent purchases and browsing at the Amazon site.

    It sort of reminds me of the old joke about getting praise from your boss sic: "you did good, now do more". Just paraphrase it thus, "you bought good, now buy a dozen things more".

    I do recall vividly a few years ago, when Google, "was going to do you a favor", by allowing the GmaiL user, to "select the types of ads they would like to receive", as to opposed to pounding the first ads, (most likely their best ad customers. or SEO selected products for maximum traffic sales generation), up your proverbial behind. In either case, there was no way to opt out of advertising in your inbox altogether.

    That said, however much hype gets rammed down my throat, I buy with respect to need, research, and perhaps to a lesser extent reviews.

    With those thing said, as it always has to be stated in these "Google the Evil Empire" threads, Gmail is free, and you're going to have to pay for it somehow.

    OTA TV is Hi-def and it's free, but the commercials can be at times, seemingly endless. Although they do give you a chance to get a beer, take a whiz, and there always is that first or last resort, the mute button.

    For me, M$'s data mining and sales tactics are orders of magnitude more heinous, since they do charge a good chunk of money for Windows, which IMO, should make it ad and snooping free..
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  15. NotKen

    NotKen TS Rookie

    I'm pretty sure that was a bug, not something they did intentionally.
  16. TsVkK

    TsVkK TS Booster Posts: 32   +20

    Google isn't very good at picking up those receipts in mail. It has only managed to log about 10 over the last 5 years on my gmail account. Clicking on a receipt gives a very prominent "remove receipt" clicky button at the bottom as well.

    I've had my email since before google was evil so I don't really want to change. I guess it's doable, but with my config I see no ads anyway. Meh.

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