A Few Choice Words on the Google Purchase Tracking Freakout

I first heard that Google was [supposedly, surreptitiously] tracking online purchases via users’ Gmail accounts from one Dagny Taggart. An unbridled screed from a blogger whose pen-name is modeled on steadfast, analytical, self-sufficient typecasting, while the world is embroiled in the flavor of the (every)day, 2 Minutes of Hate, directed at the purveyors of online services. Incredulity, please enter stage left on my mark.

Not one to go with the flow – aced social media long before Prof. Glenn Reynolds (see end note) and actually read beyond mere headlines – I decided to see for myself what the hullabaloo was all about.

Yes, I use The Goog for email, and yes I was extremely disappointed. I’ll be reading Vonnegut’s Player Piano tonight instead of joining the Evil Internets Rally & HTML Page Printout Bonfire, as from no less than five different accounts all dastardly Google would tell me was this …

Despite the depiction of what is indubitably the most untrustworthy critter to ever roam the Earth, relief poured over this helpless web waif-surfer. Then it hit me: I used business accounts i.e. GSuite, and Satan Reincarnate of Mountain View must cut their paying customers some slack. Trust but verify “they” say, which seems more like doublespeak in these times of shoot first, ask questions never. I opted for “their” advice, and quickly found my hypothesis was nothing but fail. The Goog is supposedly tracking everybody’s pornography purchases, yet after pulling the described “takeout” rigamarole (from the previous link) I got this bullshit …

… over and over again.

Now smelling a discrimination claim, I reviewed a myriad of AMEX statements. Satisfied I had an argument – despite the dearth of charges from Fun Time Enterprises, Inc. (a.k.a. hookers and blow) – I reached for the phone to call perpetual counsel (the attorney one tags “VIP” on their iZombie device). Sadly, logic got the better of me before I could press speed-dial entry #1, and I decided to review my email management practices instead.

Data: I spend decently, and confirmations flow through select accounts. Several mundane, rudimentary actions are taken on a regular schedule, and the door is coincidentally shut on They Who Shall Not Be Named But In Primary (and Secondary) Colors. Call it dumb luck, but charm and elegance are generally derived from fine schooling.

[Headphones on. Queue Ante Up, by M.O.P. Start blog post.]

I feel for those that get caught up in a nasty hack, a sophisticated phishing operation, or infected with government-developed malware leaked into the wild. Less sympathy exists for those who purchase goods and services, increasingly because they are trying to keep up with the Social Media Joneses, and then whinge because a record of the money spent is gathered by the very tools they leveraged to execute the trade in the first place. Of course it is being ground through the service providers’ machine learning algorithms, endgame enticing you to buy even more. Nevertheless, I’m linking to a video just below. I believe it will be helpful for those that want to continue using their Gmail account as a funnel for all their purchase receipts.

How To Manage Your Gmail So Google Won’t Track Your Purchases

MG signing off (and please address me as ‘Pauly’ from now on)

End note: I read Professor Reynolds’s book, The Social Media Upheaval, the day it came out. I disagree with the idea that anti-trust scrutiny is in order, and the path there is three discriminant branches intersecting at the endpoint.

First, I opted-out of all such services after reading the fine print. Yea, I’m that guy. Two, given most social media services (as well as the target email service that is the primary subject of this post) are made available without charge, and that users derive (or perceive) some benefit from said use while likely ignoring (or lacking the capability to assess) the potential risks, I invoke caveat emptor. The notion that if you are not paying for something you are the product being sold is freely and widely circulated, and vanilla common sense. Finally, when I could not understand how these services were able to assemble seemingly disparate information, resulting in such pinpoint-accurate profiles of web denizens, I took a pile of classes in applied statistics to find out. Using ensemble learning to draw wide-ranging inferences is by no means novel, but it does require some effort; on the average citizen, however, it’s child’s play. The foolproof ‘solution’ is complete account annihilation. Full-on blocking is icing on the cake.

Now put down the MonkeyBrick™ a.k.a. smartphone, quit crying, and do your homework.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.