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  • Thierry Spanjaard

Tracked! Always and everywhere!

Until now, consumer behavior analysis was working fine for online commerce, but facing some major issues for brick and mortar commerce: its was difficult to reconcile data obtained from online research and eCommerce with physical purchases. Players in the payment industry just obtained the total amount paid at the cash register without being able to know each person consumption details.

For long, loyalty programs have allowed merchants and their partners, to gather purchase details of their customers. A new step is coming now as purchase tracking is about to be available for all consumers and for all purchases.

Google just announced it was able to determine how many sales had been generated by digital ad campaigns, even if these sales were taking place in brick-and-mortar shops. To achieve this Google analyses users’ web browsing, search history and geographic locations, using data from its apps like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and the Google Play store. All that information is tied to the real identities of users when they log into Google’s services, and combined though undisclosed mathematic algorithms.

The company claims it has set up a “double-blind” encryption, which means retailers cannot know the exact identities of Google’s users and Google is not able to know the exact identity of the real-world shoppers.

Recently, Visa announced a partnership with Amazon Business and a few US-based financial institutions allowing them to obtain the purchase details of transactions, especially the list and quantities of items purchased, instead of just being in charge of processing the total amount of a transaction.

If we combine these recent announcements with the ongoing fast-paced progress of face recognition techniques, we may really be extremely concerned for our privacy. The major internet companies, retailers, financial institutions, advertising companies, and, in fact, many entities will soon be able to keep track of our movements, regardless whether we purchase anything or not. The greatest thing, maybe, compared to 1984 fiction, is that most consumers, or more globally most citizens are consenting to this loss of freedom.

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