The Verge: Tax filing websites have been sending users’ financial information to Facebook
The Markup found services including TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and H&R Block sending sensitive data.
The data, sent through widely used code called the Meta Pixel, includes not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.
This article was copublished with The Markup, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change our society. Sign up for its newsletters here.
The information sent to Facebook can be used by the company to power its advertising algorithms and is gathered regardless of whether the person using the tax filing service has an account on Facebook or other platforms operated by its owner Meta.
Information on The Meta (FaceBook) Pixel is here and on using the Advanced Matching features that these companies are using to send very private financial data to FaceBook is here. This is not an accident: these data cannot be collected unless it is specifically programmed to be collected.
Across these “Free File” vendors, FaceBook collects everything needed to falsify tax returns, or get names of child dependents to aide in targeting children by knowing their name, and their families’ address, phone numbers, demographics, filing status (married, single parent, etc), Gross and Adjusted Gross incomes and the amount of their tax refund. Knowing someone is a 12 year old daughter of a single mother with a $2,000 refund at a specific home address and phone number might be very handy to the wrong person.
It is important that every taxpayer in America know how the Federal Law has been ignored and their private financial information has been provided to FaceBook, and plan for safer ways to comply with government dictates that we file personal income taxes every year.
Harvard’s Matlock said The Markup’s findings showed the almost inevitable consequences of relying on for-profit companies to handle a government requirement. It’s a process that provides users little choice but to hand over their data to Facebook if they want to comply with the law, she said.