Google is using Gmail to secretly collect your online purchasing data which means that the company knows where did you shop online, what did you buy and how much did you spend on the particular transaction. Google has tucked away this page deep in your settings, where all your receipts from shopping online are sorted and saved, thanks to purchase receipts sent to your personal Gmail account. 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.
The purchase history includes anything you might have bought online (in which a receipt was sent to your Gmail): Amazon, Flipkart, Movies/BookMyShow, Prescriptions, etc. And there are the orders placed using Google services like Google Play Store, Google Express, or through the Google Assistant.
Google, like Facebook, knows an immense amount of information about you, your personal habits, and, yes, what you buy on the internet. And like the social network it dominates the online advertising industry alongside, Google gets this information mostly through background data collection using methods and tools its users may not be fully aware of, like Gmail purchase receipts. This is true of web tools like Gmail and smart assistants, which are increasingly coming under scrutiny for the ways the data that software collects are observed by human employees during the artificial intelligence training process.
Google is smart or rather tricky in this case and deleting your online purchase history is not a piece of cake because to delete purchase history you must delete the original email containing the receipt of that transaction. There is currently no way to mass-delete your purchase history in Google, although you can delete the transactions one by one. Also, there’s no way to turn the Purchases page “off” or to prevent future purchases from getting sorted into it.
At a moment when users are extremely on edge about their privacy, there’s a general distrust of how tech giants like Facebook, Google, or Amazon’s handle our personal info. After so many screwups and breeches and leaks, it can be hard to see their promises to “take your privacy seriously” as more than lip service.
Learning that Google has been sorting out and storing our shopping habits — and we didn’t even know it! — is a little freaky, and it’s reasonable to be sceptical about why it’s keeping this information.
In an emailed statement, Google said: “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”.
Still, considering that the Purchase page is deeply hidden in the settings menu, it doesn’t seem like something Google created to solve a frequent user problem.