Facebook may have collected some of your IRS filing data if you use online tax services

In the context of: It is fairly common knowledge that Facebook is the equivalent of a personal data vacuum. It has proven quite capable of gathering enough information on an individual user to create an enticing advertising profile. It doesn’t really need help in that regard, but it does have some — and from a more surprising place.

On Tuesday, investigative news agency The Markup revealed that it has several “major” tax filing services subscriber Private information for taxpayers with Facebook. Some of the companies listed include TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and multi-billion dollar tax giants H&R Block and Intuit.

Information shared with Meta includes relatively benign data such as names and email addresses. Of greater concern are the personal financial details involved, including annual income, enrollment status, and refund amounts. Markup has even seen cases of college scholarship amounts for dependent children and health savings account activity detected.

The data was transmitted to Facebook via a Meta Pixel – a javascript snippet inserted into a webpage. The script tracks and collects usage on a web page for targeted advertising on Facebook. It works regardless of whether the respective user has any Meta accounts. Most of the 150 million tax returns that are submitted electronically each year are delivered by sites that use the Meta Pixel code. TaxSlayer alone claims to have processed more than 10 million returns last year.

The data that Pixel sends is somewhat generalized or garbled. For example, an examination of a sample submitted through the TaxAct website showed that the Adjusted Gross Income and Refund Amount fields were rounded to the nearest $1,000 and $100, respectively. Additionally, the code has blacked out the names of dependents to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. However, analysts noted that the blackout was easy to reverse.

Information between tax services appears to vary. Markup looked at H&R Block’s Pixel data and found that, in addition to general personal information, it sent “health savings account use, scholarships, and college tuition expenses for dependents.” TaxSlayer Share phone numbers, file names, and names of dependents.

Ramsey Solutions was the most data-hungry producer. It uses a version of the TaxSayer platform that shares what is essentially a taxpayer summary sheet.

Unsurprisingly, when The Markup contacted the services about this data sharing, they mostly responded with a standard form “It’s not our fault.”

A TaxAct spokesperson responded, though IRS regulations were not involved in the investigation: “We take the privacy of our customers’ data very seriously. TaxAct strives, at all times, to comply with all IRS regulations.”

A spokesperson for H&R Block responded similarly, saying:[We] Regularly evaluate our practices as part of our ongoing commitment to privacy, and we will review information. At the very least, he acknowledged that he would look into it.

Ramsey Solutions simply claimed ignorance while implying that it had taken action.

“[We] Meta Pixel has been implemented to deliver a more personalized customer experience,” said spokesperson Megan McConnell. We did not know and were never notified that Facebook collected personal tax information from the Pixel. As soon as we found out, TaxSlayer immediately notified us to deactivate the Pixel from Ramsey SmartTax. “

Additional providers including Intuit, TaxSlayer, and others have responded with similar “We won’t do it again” statements. They promised to look into the matter while insisting they had no idea such data collection was happening on their websites and in their online tax preparation software.

It’s no surprise that Meta collects as much information about you as possible when you use its sites on Facebook or Instagram – in fact, this should be expected. However, when filing taxes online, customers should not be afraid to hand in the preparations service Which From your information to the giant company.

Image credit: Ken Teegarden

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