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Financial Regulators Should Investigate Sensitive Personal Tax Information Shared with Facebook

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Financial regulators should investigate allegations that tax filing websites have been sending users’ sensitive financial information to Facebook, Public Citizen said today in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, the IRS, and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Markup reported in November that widely used online tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been covertly transmitting user data and financial information to Facebook. The data allegedly was sent through a code called Meta Pixel and included names, email addresses, income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts. Furthermore, Meta is allegedly gathering information on tax filers whether or not they have accounts on Facebook or other platforms owned by the company. Several companies named in the story reported changing their practices following publication.

“This is an extraordinary breach of trust regarding some of Americans’ most personal information,” the letter reads. “[I]nformation-sharing practices appear to violate the privacy policies of the tax preparation companies. Even if compliant, it would be impossible for consumers to understand that such information transmission was occurring, as possibly even the tax preparing companies themselves did not.”

“These allegations are particularly troubling given the variety of ways that Meta could exploit this sensitive data, including the use of this personal information to power Meta’s manipulative targeted advertising algorithms and further entrench its monopoly,” the letter notes. “Meta’s long history with data security breaches suggests that this information could also be vulnerable to further exploitation by other bad actors.”