Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Tax Services Shared Financial Information With Google and Meta

Colin Lecher:

Meta and major tax preparation companies inappropriately shared millions of taxpayers’ financial data for years, according to a congressional report released today that was spurred by a Markup article.

Our investigation, which was published in November, revealed how tax filing services including H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer were transmitting data to Facebook’s parent company, Meta, through a tool called the Meta Pixel. The data was sent as taxpayers filed their taxes and included personal information like first and last names, income, filing status, and refund amounts. Some data was also sent to Google through its analytics tools, and Google was also a subject of the congressional investigation.

Via Nick Heer:

For example, while everyone involved acknowledged the inadvertent collection of tax-related information by ad tech companies, they waved away any concern because, they said, the data was de-identified. We all know how comforting a statement like that really is. Two of the three tax software providers enabled the collection of additional data — one of them blamed it on advice given to them by a Meta representative — and none knew exactly what had been transmitted to Meta. Nobody seems to be able to say exactly how this information was used after transmission, but the investigation concluded it was likely it was used for targeted advertising, because that is the main reason for this data collection in the first place.

I previously filed tax returns through H&R Block; in 2022, I used Wealthsimple. The tax prep areas for both sites appear to still be using tracking products from Google and Meta. It looks to me like less information is being collected; however, it is still strange to me that I would find any third-party trackers in tax prep software.

I’ve been using the TurboTax app, which should be better as it seems to use Mono rather than Web technologies. However, Little Snitch still detected some questionable connections to domains like akstat.io, glance.net, and go-mpulse.net.


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