Anonymous plaintiffs who used H&R Block, a US-based tax filing service, are suing Meta. They claim that Facebook violated their trust and privacy, and harvested sensitive financial information from them, when they filed their taxes in 2020.
In November, an investigation by the publication Markup revealed that US tax filing services like H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer have been secretly sending sensitive financial information to Meta.
The data included names, addresses, data on income, filing status, refund status and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.
This information was collected using Pixel codes. These are codes that can be embedded on websites, and can track user activity online along with serving them targeted ads. It can also be used to identify users who are on Meta platforms, like Facebook, Instagram etc.
In a statement shared with Engadget, a Meta spokesperson said that advertisers on their platforms were prohibited from sharing personal information. The company said that they used an automated system to filter out sensitive information, collected through Pixel.
The plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that while Meta requires businesses that use Pixel to have “lawful rights to collect, use and share” user data, the company does not enforce the rule and instead relies on an outdated and “broken honor-system” that has already been the cause of numerous violations.
In an interview with Markup, Marshal Hoda, part of the legal team that will represent the plaintiffs said that Meta had failed in protecting user privacy and received sensitive financial information, without consent.
“Some kinds of information are sacrosanct,” said Hoda.