In 2020, a group of anonymous plaintiffs who filed their taxes online using H&R Block filed a lawsuit against Meta.
It was understood that users’ sensitive financial information was shared through the Pixel tracking tool, along with other popular tax filing websites such as H&R Block’s TaxAct and TaxSlayer.
The pixel is a piece of code that companies can embed on their websites so it can monitor visitors’ activity and identify Facebook and Instagram users to target with ads.
Apparently, the tax preparation websites mentioned above were passing personal information such as income data, filing status, reimbursement amounts and dependents’ tuition scholarships to Meta via this code. Tax filing services had already changed Pixel settings to stop sending information, or were re-evaluating how they used the Pixel when Markup’s report came out.
Meta told Engadget when the news first broke that advertisers are prohibited from sharing personal information and that it uses an automated system that can filter sensitive content sent through Pixel.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs acknowledged that Meta requires businesses using Pixel to “have legal rights to collect, use, and share user data” before providing any information to the company. But the plaintiffs allege that the company made no effort to enforce this rule and instead relied on a “broken system” that resulted in “repeated, documented violations.”