Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Google tracks Everything

Such as all the purchases you’ve ever made via Gmail

Michael K. Spencer
May 19 · 4 min read

In the 4th industrial revolution, it’s all advertising and surveillance incentives and no privacy.

In August, 2018 it broke that Google made a secret deal with MasterCard to buy our shopping data, that is, our MasterCard data to link online ads with offline purchases.

So it doesn’t come as a shock that via Gmail Google tracks our purchases as well.

  • Google uses Gmail to track a history of things you buy — and it’s hard to delete, reports CNBC.
  • Is it creepy or convenient? Google has been quietly keeping track of nearly every single online purchase you’ve ever made, thanks to purchase receipts sent to your personal Gmail account.

I agree with the Verge though that’s its semi-secret nature is what’s most disturbing. So this information is made available to you via a private web tool that’s been active for an indeterminate amount of time. You can go view it here.

Essentially advertising companies have incentives to track everything about you. We already know the granular kind of data Facebook has, but Google too. Essentially Google has been saving years of information on purchases you’ve made, even outside Google, and pulls this information from Gmail.

Google says it doesn’t use this information to sell you ads. But can we believe it?

What’s most nefarious about this? It’s complicated to delete this private information, and options to turn it off are hidden in privacy settings. If you trust Silicon Valley firms with your data or that “data-portability” is coming, you are a bit naive I’m afraid.

Google doesn’t want you to delete it so they make it hard. There’s no simple way to delete this history — instead, you have to delete each individual emailed receipt. If that’s not a violation against consumers, I don’t know what is.

How far does your page called “Purchases ” show? Many users reports lists dating as far back as 2012.

If your bought items have a digital receipt sent to your Gmail, you can bet Google has those about you. So any digital receipt that goes to your Gmail account, Google has a list of info about your buying habits which they can add to a predictive analytics profile on you. In the surveillance economy, we’re all being studied.

Go here to see your own:

“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,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC. Google makes it sound like a cool service for us the consumer. But it’s a glimpse into how these data firms collect and track us — not just our digital footprint but what we do offline.

Google and Facebook practice surveillance capitalism, and the Chinese will perfect it.

Google also tracks you even if you turn off ‘location history’. This has been a known fact for many years. There’s no way to “turn off” the Sauron’s eye that is surveillance capitalism and it’s only going to get worse.

Let me just say this again, there isn’t an easy way to remove all of this. You can delete all the receipts in your Gmail inbox and archived messages. But like Facebook has captured our social network and so much more about us, there’s no way to say, “No, thank you!”.

Google and other companies store massive amounts of your personal data, most of which you are definitely not even aware of.

Last week, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a New York Times op-ed that said “privacy cannot be a luxury good.” But when I hear Mark Zuckerberg or Sundar Pichai talk, I cannot help but feel they are lying through their teeth. Tim Cook is at least a bit more believable, while Jeff Bezos doesn’t even pretend he cares about consumer privacy.

Google’s activity controls page doesn’t give you any ability to manage the data it stores on Purchases. So their privacy page is itself deceptive, you can’t do what they say you can. And that to me is a major red flag in the game of tracking people.

Google says it’s looking into simplifying its settings to make them easier to control, but they were clearly designed to fool consumers, not to be easy to understand. And in the era of surveillance capitalism the incentives for these bad actors is to get worse in the era of the smart home.

The general consensus is that Gmail is analyzing incoming emails for purchase receipts and then extracting that information. However it probably goes far deeper than that, and what is available to the general public. In digital advertising, there is no regulation and no limit to how far these companies will go. China won’t just compete with them in the Cloud, but in how data is extracted from what people do and how that data is monetized.


Futurism articles bent on cultivating an awareness of exponential technologies while exploring the 4th industrial revolution.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, prolific writer. LinkedIn: michaelkspencer



Futurism articles bent on cultivating an awareness of exponential technologies while exploring the 4th industrial revolution.