Google knows what you bought, and when you bought it.
This fact is made painfully clear by the Google purchases page — a detailed list, pulled from your Gmail inbox, of everything you’ve purchased over the years that came with a confirmation email. The level of detail is staggering.
Those books you bought in 2013 when you were fascinated by the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis? The same pair of shoes that you ordered, over and over again, for years? (Yes, these are personal examples.) They’re all there, in a neat little helpfully compiled list.
This so-called feature was brought to the internet’s attention Friday, when CNBC reported that not only does such a lists exist, but that removing items from it is an extremely time-consuming process.
To delete your purchase of, say, a spicy tuna roll in April of 2015, you have to go back and delete the emailed receipt associated with the purchase. Google says that in some cases you can also click on the item in question, then the “i” button, then select “where’s this from,” and then “delete,” but this reporter was not presented with that option.
Imagine doing either of those for every accumulated item.
According to a Google support page, this list comes from “[orders] placed using Google services, like Google Play Store, Google Express, or through the Google Assistant” in addition to [order] receipts or confirmations received in Gmail.”
And while the fact that Google has this information may not be surprising, seeing it all in a single place can be a jarring experience.
We reached out to Google in an attempt to determine what, if anything, the company is doing with this list and if there is way to stop purchases from being aggregated in the future. We received no response as of press time.
We do, however, know of one foolproof method for opting out: Stop using Gmail.
UPDATE: May 17, 2019, 2:52 p.m. PDT A Google spokesperson provided the following statement:
“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.”
This post has been updated to clarify that the purchase page in question is part of a user’s Google Account.