09/12/2022

Popular tax prep software sent financial information to Meta, report finds

Meta (formerly Facebook) corporate headquarters is seen in Menlo Park, California on November 9, 2022.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

Popular tax prep software including TaxAct, TaxSlayer and H&R Block sent sensitive financial information to Facebook parent company Meta through its widespread code, known as a pixel, that helps developers track user activity on their sites, an investigation by The Markup found.

In a report published with The Verge on Tuesday, the outlet found the software sent information like names, email addresses, income information and refund amounts to Meta. The Markup discovered the data trail through a project earlier this year with Mozilla Rally called “Pixel Hunt,” where participants installed a browser extension that sent the group a copy of data shared with Meta through its pixel.

“Advertisers should not send sensitive information about people through our Business Tools,” a Meta spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. “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 considers potentially sensitive information to include information about income, loan amounts and debt status.

The Markup also found that TaxAct had transmitted similar financial information to Google via its analytics tool, though that data did not include names.

“Any data in Google Analytics is obfuscated, meaning it is not tied back to an individual and our policies prohibit customers from sending us data that could be used to identify a user,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC. “Additionally, Google has strict policies against advertising to people based on sensitive information.”

Representatives for the tax prep services did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Read the full report on The Verge.

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