Google Knows That I Seamlessed Chicken Fingers Last Night

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It’s commonly accepted at this point that if you’ve spent enough time online, Google has a wealth of data on you. But did you know this also includes an itemized list of purchases you’ve made, and not just through Google services? For instance, the first (humbling) item on my purchases page is “chicken fingers,” which I bought last night through the Seamless mobile app.

CNBC first spotted this unsettlingly invasive way in which Google is tracking you, with the author noting that his purchases date back to at least 2012. You can view your own purchase history at http://myaccount.google.com/purchases. According to Google, it collects purchases and reservations you made through Google services, but it also collects purchases made elsewhere that sent an order confirmation or receipt to your Gmail account.

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That adds up, given a number of orders listed in my own purchases were certainly not made through any Google services, but through companies like Seamless, Sephora, the iTunes store, Etsy, 1-800-CONTACTS, and Amazon, to name a few. If you click on the item, it’ll show you when you purchased it, how much you spent, and even the delivery address. And it’s not just my own personal information documented through this. For example, I bought my mom, dad, and sister their Hanukkah gifts on Etsy last year and had them shipped directly to them. Each of their home addresses is saved on the item pages. If you click on the info icon next to the order on the item page, it’ll tell you Google’s source for the purchase. My chicken fingers were sourced through a receipt on my Gmail account.

You can delete the purchase history, but there’s not one simple way to erase it all. Instead, you have to delete each purchased item individually on the page. Google told Gizmodo that it is possible to opt out of tracking your purchases, but it’s on another settings page. It’s almost as if the company doesn’t want to make it easy and obvious to prevent it from learning more about you.

“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 said in a statement emailed to Gizmodo.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.”

Google notes that only you are able to view your activity page, but it still indicates just how far and intimate the tech giant’s reach is when it comes to gobbling up your data. That it’s not simply exclusive to your activity on Google’s own services, but pretty much any service that even has a touch-point with a Google product, like your email. You could even buy something IRL, and had that company emailed you a receipt, it’d be automatically itemized in a comprehensive account of how you spend your money, where you spend your money, and even the places you have your items shipped to.

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So, uh, happy shopping!

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Melanie Ehrenkranz

Reporter at Gizmodo

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