If you have been using an online tax preparation website to file your income taxes, you might have had your information packaged up and sent over to Facebook.
As reported by The Verge, an investigation by The Markup found that a number of tax preparation websites have been sharing customers’ financial information with the social media giant. Not one, but at least three tax preparation websites were found to be sharing such information.
Millions of Americans choose online tax preparation software to file their income taxes yearly. From TurboTax to TaxAct, tax preparation companies make filing your taxes so easy online that they’ve grown into the go-to choice for many who will file their taxes online.
The investigation found that H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer had all deployed the Meta Pixel, a common tool from Facebook’s parent company that is used to collect user information for marketing purposes. The information collected on these tax preparation websites included “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.”
Mandi Matlock, a Harvard Law School lecturer focused on tax law, said that customers were unknowingly “providing some of the most sensitive information that they own, and it’s being exploited. This is appalling. It truly is.”
It appears that all of the companies, in response to the report coming out, are taking steps to minimize the data that the tool collects or remove it from their website completely. Dale Hogan, a spokesperson for Meta, responded to the report with the following statement:
Advertisers should not send sensitive information about people through our Business Tools. Doing so is against our policies and we educate advertisers on properly setting up Business tools to prevent this from occurring. Our system is designed to filter out potentially sensitive data it is able to detect.
Meta has been going through the wringer lately. With the metaverse still years away, Apple’s app tracking transparency having major impacts on the company’s ad revenue, and the recent layoffs, Mark Zuckerberg’s empire continues to wane around him.