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Major US tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook, The Verge reports.
This data includes not only information like names and email addresses but often much more sensitive information like data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.
The information was gathered regardless of whether the person using the tax filing service had an account on Facebook and was used to power Facebook's advertising algorithms.
This is how it worked: users signing up to file their taxes on a popular website like TaxAct were asked to provide personal information to calculate their returns, including how much money they make and their investments.
A pixel on TaxAct’s website then sent some of that data to Facebook, including users’ filing status, their adjusted gross income, and the amount of their refund, according to a review by The Markup. Income was rounded to the nearest thousand and refunds to the nearest hundred. The pixel also sent the names of dependents in an obfuscated — but generally reversible — format,
the article says.
Another service that used the Meta Pixel, a widely used code, included tax preparation giant H&R Block, which embedded a pixel on its site that gathered information on filers’ health savings account usage and dependents’ college tuition grants and expenses.