Google is using Gmail to track your purchases
Google's business relies on gathering information about its users and customers, so the company take every opportunity it can to reap as much data as possible. As such, it should surprise no one to learn that Google has been using Gmail to keep a record of things you have bought -- both online and offline.
A little-known page (it's not exactly secret, but nor is it made particularly obvious) of your Google account reveals years of purchases. Google insists that the data on the Purchases page can only be seen by individuals, and is not used to tailor ads, but the clandestine, opaque nature of the tracking -- coupled with the fact that the data is tricky to delete -- is unlikely to go down well with Gmail users with concerns about privacy.
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The existence of the Purchases page was highlighted by CNBC, which points out that Google not only keeps a record of online purchases, but also uses digital receipts to record some offline purchases. You can check out just what Google has recorded about your purchases by heading to the Purchases page of your account. You'll probably finding a record of your buying history stretching back a number of years.
Google issued a statement saying:
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.
The company is correct in saying that this information can be deleted, but this assumes that you knew it existed in the first place. Deletion is also something of a pain; there is no option to mass-delete everything, and instead you have to manually work through each item. You will then be prompted to delete the email that Google gathered the information from.
There is no way to stop purchase information being collated in this way, and Google has not revealed how long the data has been collected like this.