If you weren’t aware, Google tracks all of the purchases that you have made online if the purchase receipts land in your Gmail account. If you’re logged into your Google Account, then you can go to the purchases page and see everything Google knows that you have purchased. But there’s only one problem: the purchases that Google reports that you’ve made sometimes are purchases that other people have made.
This Google tracking purchases feature has some serious privacy issues. In one case, someone’s Google Account shows that they made a purchase of a product and it shows the address of the person who purchased it. The only problem is that he didn’t purchase the product and didn’t live in that State at the time the purchase was made.
My Purchases According to Google
When I took a look at my list of purchases, I can see purchases of an additional 100gb of space for my Google Drive (Google One), which is totally expected. It’s tied to my Google account, and I use Google’s payment system tied to my credit card to pay for it. Scrolling down the list, though, I see a purchase that they know about where I purchased an Air Conditioner online. This is very interesting. Why? Well, I had to purchase this air conditioner/heating unit online through Sam’s Club online, as it wasn’t available in the store. Here’s where it’s interesting. My Sam’s Club account uses an email address that forwards to my Gmail account. So it’s not tied to my Google Account (the Sam’s Club account is not tied to my Google Account), just the email address that FORWARDS to my Gmail Account.
Then, when you view the purchases that Google shows, it turns out that I supposedly also bought “Let Her Go”. I don’t know what that is, and I never purchased such a thing. It most likely is the song, and was a digital download. But I don’t believe I purchased it, as I do NOT like that song and would have never purchased it. It must be tied to my IP address? But did someone potentially make a purchase using my Google Account or when they were logged into my Google Account? I don’t think so.
Google Purchases & Privacy
Here’s where it gets really, really interesting. I have a friend, let’s call him Chris. Chris lived in Arizona for a while and then moved to Colorado. He knows exactly when he moved to Colorado, and is pretty sure that he used Comcast for his ISP back in Arizona. Viewing his purchase history, Chris showed me that Google thinks that he purchased a baseball glove in December 2016, and it was shipped to an address in Arizona. The only problem is that he didn’t live in Arizona in 2016. Not only that, the actual address where it was shipped TO is listed. It’s not Chris, and he doesn’t recognize that address.
Chris actually was in Colorado when this purchase was made. So, since he had Comcast, we assume that Google has tied Chris to an IP address in Arizona, and the person who bought that baseball glove has Chris’ old IP address. Chris hasn’t told me if there were other purchases listed and whether or not he can see all of the purchases made by this person in Arizona after he left Arizona.
The fact that Google is tying Chris to a particular address, along with a date and time and a certain product that was purchased brings up a privacy issue in my opinion. Chris can potentially see what others have purchased, which is a problem. Google’s pulling some of these purchases from your Gmail account, whether or not you purchased them or not.
You can click on the little “i” icon next to each purchase and see where the purchase is from and how they obtained the information. Based on my purchase, for example, it was found in my gmail account. I spoke with Chris and he believes that this purchase was made by another person with his same first and last name, and the email address of the purchase went to his email account by mistake. Now Chris knows the Name, Address, and account details of the person who bought that $189 baseball glove.