Individuals and businesses using H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer to file their returns may have had their most sensitive data shared with Meta (Facebook) and Google. A probe led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D. Ma) has discovered tens of millions of possible violations of privacy laws.
And it was all inadvertent.
The companies used Meta Pixel and Google Analytics to track website visitors. Since their websites were tied to the tax software used for tax preparation, the information was available. What the tax software providers didn’t know was that given the tracking software, data flowed in both directions.
The information unwittingly provided to Meta and Google includes but is not limited to the following.
1 – Names
2 – Filing Status
3 – Gender
4 – Email Addresses
5 – Income
6 – Refund Amounts
7 – Investment Income
8 – Dependent’s College Scholarship Amounts
9 – Deductions and Exemptions
The probe has found that data gathering went on for at least ,”a couple of years”. Meta is more of a target of the probe currently because so far in the investigation, they haven’t found that Google used the data for commercial gain.
Meta has admitted to using the data to target individuals in its own marketing campaigns. It hasn’t yet been discovered that either company sold the information to outside sources. But let’s remember that the main revenue flow Google has is selling that sort of information.
Let me leave you with this.
Before my phone lights up like a Christmas Tree, I don’t use visitor tracking software on either of my websites. I don’t buy advertising on Facebook or Google Adwords and my websites aren’t tied directly to any of my tax software packages.
As such, a data breach is by definition impossible at any of my companies. If you’re one of my clients, your data is safe.
The case will be interesting to watch as it develops. The Internal Revenue Service mandated stricter security measures for all tax preparers several years ago.
We spend a lot of money on this issue and follow the rules. Our security is so ridiculous at times that I feel like I’m operating Fort Knox instead of an accounting, tax, and payroll business. It’s obvious that this is something that some of us take more seriously than others.
I will continue to write about this continuing story.
We’re all going to get through this. Let’s get through it together.
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