Herewith the story of my attempts to buy a Dora the Explorer Mr. Face Plush Backpack from ToysRUs using Google Checkout. In short, Google now has my credit card number. (It’s one I use for testing, however). It feels kind of odd, to be honest.
It seems Google is obviating the merchant entirely vis the ongoing data relationship with the buyer. The registration screen states: “”Google” will appear by the charge on your credit card statement. Your card number will not be shared with the seller.”
Why on earth would anyone want this to be the case? To lose your relationship with the buyer? What information *is* passed back to ToysRUs? What rights do I have to that information, and to know how it’s used between Google and the merchant?
I clicked on the TOS, which is here. What I found noteworthy (GPC is Google Payment Company, the company Google created to drive Checkout):
You acknowledge and agree that your purchases of Products are transactions between you and the Seller, and not with GPC, Google or any of GPC’s affiliates. GPC is not a party to your purchase of Products, and GPC, Google, or other GPC affiliates are not a buyer or a seller in connection with any Payment Transaction, unless expressly designated as such in the listing of the Product on a Google Web Site.
Also, found this:
You agree that you will not use the Service to process Payment Transactions for any Products that violate this Terms of Service, other policies or rules applicable to the Service, or applicable law. The current policy that establishes the Products and other transactions that may not be paid for with the Service is provided here. Failure to comply with these limitations may result in suspension or termination of your use of the Service.
A quick check of what Google finds not worth selling shows expected stuff, like porn and drugs, but also this:
Literature, products or other materials that:
* Defame or slander any person or groups of people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, or other factors
* Encourage or incite violent acts
* Promote intolerance or hatred
Which I suppose means that you cannot use Google Checkout to buy a DVD of this or this.
* Providing our products and services to users, including the display of customized content and advertising;
* Auditing, research and analysis in order to maintain, protect and improve our services;
* Ensuring the technical functioning of our network; and
* Developing new services.
….We may process personal information to provide our own services. In some cases, we may process personal information on behalf of and according to the instructions of a third party, such as our advertising partners.
….We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against imminent harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.
Whew. OK, back to the Checkout specific policy terms:
They collect a lot of data on you, and they keep it in one place – your Google Account. That’s pretty much what I expected. All your reg info goes there (credit card, address, etc) and then Google reserves the right to add third party data (credit reporting agencies, for example) and – here’s the nub:
…Transaction information – When you use Google Checkout to conduct a transaction, we collect information about each transaction, including the transaction amount, a description provided by the seller of the goods or services being purchased, the names of the seller and buyer, and the type of payment used.
Nowhere does it say that this information is shared back to the merchants. Were I a merchant, I’d be very wary of this.
Now, here’s the thing that might make you think. Once you start a data trail in Checkout, it stays for good, at least, it stays as long as Google wants it to:
You can disable Google Checkout by contacting us. If you do so, your payment information and transaction history will no longer be viewable through Google Checkout. However, in order to meet our reporting and auditing obligations, and to detect, deter, and prevent fraud or other misconduct on our systems, the information will be retained in our systems. If you disable Google Checkout, your personally identifiable information will not be used by Google or shared with third parties except for these purposes. We may delete these records over time if permitted or required by law.
Put another way, don’t step in the mud if you don’t want the tracks to stay forever.
Under federal law, you have the right to opt out of certain sharing between affiliated companies such as GPC and Google. Specifically, you may choose to opt out of:
* The sharing between GPC and Google of information that does not pertain to your transactions or experiences with Google Checkout (also called “non-transactional information”, e.g., information we may obtain from third parties to verify your identity), and
* The use by Google of information shared between GPC and Google to promote Google products and services.
If you don’t want us to share non-transactional data between GPC and Google, please click here (this is a email address).
If you don’t want us to use any information shared between GPC and Google to promote Google products and services to you, please click here. (also an email, I sent both of them mail and asked to opt out).
OK, so I have now read (or re-read) three separate privacy policies, and it’s time to complete my purchase. I hit “agree” and, still on Google’s servers, get the confirmation page, hit “sign in” again and…shit, it’s not working!
What did I do wrong?
I head over to where they tell me to go – https://www.google.com/accounts/ForgotPasswd – and give them the email I use for my Google account. (It worked before, to log me in in the first place, very odd!). I reset my password, and now…where do I go? There’s not a screen inviting me back to complete my purchase! There’s no way to get back to my order! My daughter’s beloved Dora the Explorer Mr. Face Plush Backpack from ToysRUs is totally MIA!
Hmmm. I sign into my Google Checkout account, maybe that will have the purchase history. After all, they had all the information – but no. While Google did manage to capture and save my credit card info, there’s no history of my attempt to purchase the Dora backpack.
Hmmm. How about I use my Firefox history to go back to the original page where my account did not work in the first place! (Not that this is something most shoppers would ever do, but…). Hey, that should work!
Nope. “Oops! Your shopping cart has expired.”
Shit. So I’m starting over. No, wait, this has been way too much of a trial. I’ll get back to it later. Or, I’ll just go to Amazon.
Sorry Google, but mark this one in your metadata as “abandoned cart.”