Earlier this week, an influential tech publication revealed that Google has been keeping tracks of users’ personal purchases via a hidden tool.
According to Google, the tool was meant to provide Gmail users with a history of past purchases and receipt from G-store.
A company representative added that the collected data would never be employed to push personalized ads or to track users’ online activity.
Are there any security risks?
In an interview with a Google representative, Tech Times learned that for the past two and a half years, a hidden Gmail feature has been tracking all online shopping activity.
Moreover, according to the interview, the tool shows both Google and non-Google purchases.
For instance, if you bought something from Amazon or eBay, the receipts will show up in this tool.
The feature’s so uncannily accurate that it’s capable of displaying info such as product features, purchase and delivery dates, address, cost, VAT, address, and store.
The good news is that users may employ this feature to retrieve codes or order-specific details in case they’ve lost the physical recipe that comes with the package.
The bad news is that Google’s now under suspicion of GDPR breach by collecting data with the user’s consent.
To all these allegations, Google responded that the hidden feature is merely an extension of the Gmail Suite, very useful for reviewing your online purchases history.
Furthermore, according to a Google spokesperson, the data collected via this tool can always be deleted by the user.
The company made assurances that nothing’s being kept on the server and that this data will in no way be sold to third-party agents or be employed to push user-tailored ads through Gmail.
How long has this been going on?
When asked about this tool, the spokesperson revealed that Google had introduced this feature in early 2017, although no one recalls any advertising or reading about it in Gmail’s Terms and Conditions.
Nonetheless, the tool is out there and, the next time you will make an online purchase, it will appear in this tool. Even worse is the fact that it doesn’t come with any desktop or mobile notification features.
Should we be worried about Google’s recent heartfelt confession? Most definitely since it represents authorized data access.
Although the tool cannot be deactivated, the user can manually eliminate transaction details by clicking the “eliminate purchase” button on the bottom side of the screen.
Another solution would be to place the order and pay through a device that’s signed out of your Google account.
Still, these are merely workarounds which shouldn’t have been used in the first place if Google came out clean about this feature.
Does this mean that you should delete your Gmail account and start anew? That would be way too radical. However, you should check out the tool and eliminate your purchase details as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Google’s committed to finding a way to overtly integrate this tool into the Gmail Suite. We can’t say how long this will take or how it will affect the user.
What are your thoughts on Gmail’s hidden feature? Hit the comments section and let us know.