Google Has Been Using Gmail to Track User Purchases for Years

As highlighted in an article by CNBC News ^(https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/17/google-gmail-tracks-purchase-history-how-to-delete-it.html), Google is collecting a lot of personal information from its commonly used services, such as Gmail, and some of it can’t be easily deleted. The company is also found to have been saving years of information on purchases made by users, even outside Google, and it pulls this information from Gmail.

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Although Google says it does not use any information from a user’s Gmail account to serve relevant ads, there isn’t an easy way to remove the information it has saved already. This includes the email receipts and confirmations shown on a user’s ‘Purchase’ page, which can be accessed by visiting http://myaccount.google.com/purchases ^(https://myaccount.google.com/purchases).

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According to a Google spokesperson, the Purchase page has been designed “to help you easily view and keep track of your purchases, bookings, and subscriptions in one place.”

Google’s privacy page says that only you can view your purchases. But it says “Information about your orders may also be saved with your activity in other Google services ” and that you can see and delete this information on a separate “My Activity” page.

Except you can’t. Google’s activity controls page ^(https://myaccount.google.com/data-and-personalization) doesn’t give you any ability to manage the data it stores on Purchases.

Google also told CNBC that you can turn off the tracking entirely, but you have to go to another page ^(https://myaccount.google.com/data-and-personalization) for search setting preferences. However, when CNBC tried this, it didn’t work.

Turns out, there is no such option to fully turn off your purchase tracking by Google.

Google Using Gmail to Track User Purchases

The privacy of Gmail took a severe hit after a Reddit user’s take on the matter related to privacy, he shared how he found that his Google Account’s Purchases page carried a record of all his purchases made from other online platforms like Amazon; notably, it included the purchases made without using Google Pay.

Prior to appearing into your Google account, your Gmail messages undergo scanning by Google for purchases which happen at the expense of the privacy that the platform was supposedly providing.

While briefing his experience, the Reddit user told that when he checked his Google Account Purchases page, he discovered that the Purchases page also consists a record of the purchases he made from Adidas, Dominos, Amazon, Steam and some other online stores. To put the things into perspective, he further told that he does not use Google Pay.

On being enquired on the matter, Google stated that the source of information was Gmail messages. They also confirmed that the company is not making use of purchases or any other data stored in user emails and that this was configured to aid users in finding and tracking their valuable data.

Referencing from the company’s statements, “To help you easily view and keep track of your purchases, bookings, and subscriptions in one place, we’ve created a private destination that can only be seen by you. You can delete this information at, any, time. We don’t use any information from your Gmail messages to serve you ads, and that includes the email receipts and confirmations shown on the Purchase page. We’re always working to help people understand and manage their data.”