Marketers concerned about consumer goodwill received a jolt on Tuesday when the Verge reported that tax services, including TaxAct and H&R Block, had sent sensitive personal data to Meta.
The data was sent via the Meta Pixel, a widely used code.
Meta can use the data from tools like the Pixel to power its algorithms, providing it with "insight into the habits of users across the internet,” the report says.
The alleged sharing was discovered by The Markup, a nonprofit newsletter, and co-published with The Verge. The report was also covered by CNBC.
The report names several companies.
For instance, a pixel on TaxAct’s website “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,” The Verge writes. “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.”
TaxSlayer “sent personal information to Facebook as part of the social media company’s “advanced matching” system, it says.
The information includes phone numbers, the name of the user filling out the form, and the names of dependents added to the return, The Verge writes.
H&R Block had embedded a pixel that gathered information on health savings0account usage and dependents’ college-tuition grants and expenses.
Intuit, which also uses the pixel, did not send financial information to Meta, only user names and the last time a device signed in, The Verge claims.
The Verge reported the following comments from the companies:
TaxAct said: “We take the privacy of our customers’ data very seriously. TaxAct, at all times, endeavors to comply with all IRS regulations.”
H&R Block said the company “regularly evaluate[s] our practices as part of our ongoing commitment to privacy, and will review the information.”
Another firm, financial advice and software provider, Ramsey Solutions, “uses a version of TaxSlayer’s service,” The Verge added.
Megan McConnell, a spokesperson for Ramsey Solutions, said in an email that the company “implemented the Meta Pixel to deliver a more personalized customer experience.” She added: “We did NOT know and were never notified that personal tax information was being collected by Facebook from the Pixel,” the statement said. “As soon as we found out, we immediately informed TaxSlayer to deactivate the Pixel from Ramsey SmartTax.”
TaxSlayer said: “Our customers’ privacy is of utmost importance, and we take concerns about our customers’ information very seriously."
Intuit said: The company’s pixel “does not track, gather, or share information that users enter in TurboTax while filing their taxes.”
But Intuit said it “may share some non-tax-return information, such as username, with marketing partners to deliver a better customer experience.”