A top privacy organization is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, and perhaps limit, the ability of Google to track what you buy, from whom, when and for how much, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

In brick-and-mortar stores.

The Internet behemoth, which already has multiple ways to track consumers online, is the subject of a complaint by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC.

EPIC points out Google now tracks in-store purchases by collecting billions of credit-card and debit-card transaction details and then links that personal data to the activities of Internet users.

You look at an item online, then later buy it in a store with a bank card, and Google is tracking you.

EPIC is asking the FTC to stop Google’s tracking of in-store purchases and “determine whether Google adequately protects consumer privacy.”

The organization cited a recent Washington Post report that explained how the Web giant monitors billions of electronic payment transactions and determines when Internet ads prompt people to buy things in stores.

It already “analyzes users’ Web browsing, search history and geographic locations, using data from popular Google-owned apps like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and the Google Play store. All that information is tied to the real identities of users when they log into Google’s services,” the report said.

Now, the report explained, “the new credit-card data enables the tech giant to connect these digital trails to real-world purchase records in a far more extensive way than was possible before.”

The company, which saw about $79 billion in revenue a year ago, revealed its “undisclosed partner companies had access to 70 percent of transactions for credit and debit cards in the United States,” the report said.

What do YOU think? Sound off on Google tracking in-store purchases

EPIC’s complaint said Google’s “Store Sales Measurement” at issue “reveals sensitive information about consumer purchases, health, and private lives.”

“Google claims that it can preserve consumer privacy while correlating advertising impressions with store purchases, but Google refuses to reveal – or allow independent testing of – the technique that would make this possible,” the complaint says. “The privacy of millions of consumers thus depends on a secret, proprietary algorithm. And although Google claims that consumers can opt out of being tracked, the process is burdensome, opaque, and misleading.”

EPIC, a public interest research center, focuses on privacy and civil liberties issues.

Google is taking information from consumers who use services such as AdWords and others, then correlates information from “direct import” customer data companies.

The complaint explains Google “provided no further detail on how these vague [privacy] promises will be carried out and does not detail how the system works.”

“Google ‘would not say’ whether customers have consented to the use of their data to tie purchases to advertising and other actions,” the complaint says.

For the rest of this report, and more, please go to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

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