Pluralistic: 22 Nov 2022 Tax prep services send sensitive financial info to Facebook

Originally published at: Pluralistic: 22 Nov 2022 Tax prep services send sensitive financial info to Facebook – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow


Today's links



An H&R Block storefront; the 'o' in Block has been replaced with the glaring red eye of HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse avatar peeks out from behind a pillar.

Tax prep services send sensitive financial info with Facebook (permalink)

If you were unfortunate enough to e-file your US tax using HR Block, Taxact or Taxslayer, your most sensitive financial information was nonconsenually shared with Facebook, where it was added to the involuntary dossier the company maintains billions of people, including people who don't have Facebook accounts.

A blockbuster investigative report from The Markup and The Verge reveals that major tax-prep services illegally embedded the Facebook tracking pixel in their sites, configured so that it transmitted as much data as possible to the surveillance giant.

https://www.theverge.com/2022/11/22/23471842/facebook-hr-block-taxact-taxslayer-info-sharing

In their defense, the companies say that they didn't know that they were sending all this data to Facebook, and that they were using Facebook's surveillance pixel to "deliver a more personalized customer experience."

The companies had set the Facebook tracking pixel to use "automatic advanced matching," which scours any page it's embedded in for personally identifying information to harvest and transmit to Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/business/help/611774685654668?id=1205376682832142

Facebook claims that it doesn't want this data and won't use it, though the company has been previously caught violating fair finance laws by using finance data to discriminate against Black families:

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/21/doj-settles-with-facebook-over-allegedly-discriminatory-housing-ads.html

But it's possible that Facebook isn't using this data – or that it doesn't know whether it's using this data. Facebook's own internal audits show that the company doesn't know what data it collects or how it uses it:

https://www.vice.com/en/article/akvmke/facebook-doesnt-know-what-it-does-with-your-data-or-where-it-goes

Remember, Facebook claims that it collects your data based on your consent; somehow it thinks that you can consent to collecting and using your data in ways that even Facebook can't describe.

As infuriating as Facebook's role in this data theft is, the real scandal is that Americans have to pay for tax preparation at all. In most of the world's wealthy countries, the tax authorities send taxpayers a precompleted tax-return every year. You can modify this return (on your own or with the help of a tax-prep professional), or you can just mail it back. For free.

This makes sense. The tax authorities already know how much you've made. They know what deductions you're entitled to. It is surreal that you have to pay a professional to fill in a form to tell the IRS a bunch of things it already know about you.

Every attempt to bring free tax prep to America has been scuttled by an unholy alliance of anti-tax extremists like Grover Nordquist (a sadist who wants to make paying your tax as cumbersome and painful as possible) and the multi-billion-dollar, highly concentrated tax-prep industry.

Companies like HR Block and Intuit have spent millions lobbying against free tax prep. It's money well spent, because tax prep makes billions for these companies. The biggest tax prep companies formed something called "the Free File Alliance" that purported to offer free tax-prep to low- and medium-income Americans.

In practice, "free filing" turned out to be a marketing funnel that tricked people into paying for services they were entitled to get for free. Intuit alone stole billions this way:

https://pluralistic.net/2022/02/24/uber-for-arbitration/#nibbled-to-death-by-ducks

The monopolists who run America's tax-prep services claim that "government can't do anything well" and insist that the private sector will bring "efficiencies" to tax-prep. In reality, these companies literally have no idea what they're doing – they don't know what data they're collecting, nor who they're sharing it with.

Same goes for Facebook. Companies that are not disciplined by competition or regulation don't have to be good at their jobs. These companies' major competence is lobbying Congress to prevent the passage of meaningful privacy laws and laws that would save Americans billions through IRS-prepared tax-returns.

As Harvard tax-law prof Mandi Matlock told Simon Fondrie-Teitler, Angie Waller, and Colin Lecher, this data Valdez is the "almost inevitable consequence of relying on for-profit companies to handle a government requirement. It’s a process that provides users little choice but to hand over their data to Facebook if they want to comply with the law."

(Image: Cryteria, CC BY 3.0; Social Woodlands, CC BY 2.0; modified)


Hey look at this (permalink)



This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Dumbass plan to redesign internet shored up by crooked, lying consultants https://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/22/world/threats-responses-surveillance-terror-tracking-agency-weighed-but-discarded-plan.html

#10yrsago Texas student suspended for refusing RFID tracker https://www.wired.com/2012/11/student-suspension/

#10yrsago Finnish police confiscate 9-y-o’s laptop after she downloads a song from the Pirate Bay https://dublimat.blogspot.com/2012/11/9-year-old-girl-prosecuted-for-piratism.html

#10yrsago Hacker steals entire nation’s identity https://www.loweringthebar.net/2012/11/if-youre-greek-somebody-probably-stole-your-identity.html

#10yrsago Fact-checking US patent-boss’s defense of his job https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/11/us-patent-chief-to-software-patent-critics-give-it-a-rest-already/

#10yrsago Counterfeiters counterfeit anti-counterfeiting notice https://memex.craphound.com/2012/11/22/counterfeiters-counterfeit-anti-counterfeiting-notice/

#10yrsago Spacehawk: the complete collection of Basil Wolverton’s space crusader https://memex.craphound.com/2012/11/22/spacehawk-the-complete-collection-of-basil-wolvertons-space-crusader/

#5yrsago Connected sex-toy allows for code-injection attacks on a robot you wrap around your genitals https://twitter.com/SarahJamieLewis/status/933150566347284481

#5yrsago Why we should cheer the DoJ’s lawsuit to block the AT&T/Time-Warner merger https://www.wired.com/story/why-the-government-is-right-to-block-the-atandt-time-warner-merger/

#5yrsago For more than half a century, the sugar industry has used Big Tobacco tactics to suppress sugar/cancer link and to confuse the science https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003460

#5yrsago Cops chase innocent shoplifting suspect into stranger’s house, then storm it with 50-person SWAT team and blow up every room except one https://thefreethoughtproject.com/cop-watch/fifty-swat-cops-tore-down-house-shoplifting

#5yrsago Trump’s top economic advisor couldn’t bear to listen to the president bloviate so he pretended he had a bad connection and hung up https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/11/22/gary-cohn-trump-tax-reform-bad-phone-connection-carper-sot-nr.cnn

#5yrsago Trump found someone even worse than Tom Price to regulate Health and Human Services: an insulin profiteer https://medium.com/@caitlynmcclure/dude-who-tripled-price-of-insulin-nominated-to-regulate-price-of-insulin-bf9a25e609b7

#5yrsago “Less lethal” is a deceptive term to describe the weapons that routinely kill and maim peaceful protesters https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/homer-venters-crowd-control-weapons/

#5yrsago States suspend your driver’s license over inability to pay court fines, costing you your job and any ability to repay https://www.vice.com/en/article/59yvwx/the-vicious-cycle-of-losing-a-drivers-license-over-court-debt

#5yrsago Behold! The astonishing mental gymnastics of TSA apologists explaining why rich people don’t need to be screened https://memex.craphound.com/2017/11/22/behold-the-astonishing-mental-gymnastics-of-tsa-apologists-explaining-why-rich-people-dont-need-to-be-screened/

#5yrsago Uber admits it breached 57,000,000 accounts, then bribed the hackers to cover it up, now they’re paying a top ex-NSA lawyer to teach them transparency https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-21/uber-concealed-cyberattack-that-exposed-57-million-people-s-data

#1yrago Private ambulances want a ban on firefighters rescuing babies https://pluralistic.net/2021/11/22/amr-vs-babies/#unauthorized-ambulance



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/).

Currently writing:

  • The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Yesterday's progress: 545 words (64000 words total)
  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest books:

Upcoming books:

  • Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.


How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Pluralistic.net

Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

https://pluralistic.net/plura-list

Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

https://mamot.fr/web/accounts/303320

Medium (no ads, paywalled):

https://doctorow.medium.com/

(Latest Medium column: "Anything That Can’t Go On Forever Will Eventually Stop: Ticketmaster and Ideas Lying Around" https://doctorow.medium.com/anything-that-cant-go-on-forever-will-eventually-stop-110ba9711133)

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

https://twitter.com/doctorow

Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

https://mostlysignssomeportents.tumblr.com/tagged/pluralistic

"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla