(Photo: H&R Block)
TaxSlayer appears to have used Meta Pixel to capture the most detailed user information. Using a “Meta Pixel Inspector” it developed earlier this year, The Markup found that TaxSlayer habitually gathered users’ names, phone numbers, and dependent names. A specific form of TaxSlayer incorporated into personal finance celebrity Dave Ramsey’s websites also obtained users’ income and refund totals. When The Markup asked Ramsey Solutions about its use of Meta Pixel, the company said it hadn’t known about the code’s data-grabbing element and allegedly removed it from its sites. TaxAct similarly stopped capturing users’ financial data but continued to record dependents’ names.
But why? What incentive does Facebook have to grab Americans’ tax information? As it nearly always does, the answer comes down to money. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, regularly uses its approximately 2 million Meta Pixels to capture web users’ browsing activity, demographic data, and more. This information is then used to ensure Facebook and Instagram users are seeing ads they might actually click, thus supporting Meta’s lucrative marketing operations.
The IRS, having been made aware of the tax websites’ Meta Pixel usage, could render Facebook’s tax data harvesting financially useless. Websites that share users’ tax information without consent can face steep fines, and as of Tuesday, H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer lacked the disclosures necessary to claim consent.