Calling Out a Dodgy Data Transaction

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Like we know, human beings are arguably the most capable species to ever walk the earth, but despite everything, we haven’t quite managed to find a solution for our error-prone tendencies. These tendencies, in particular, have already showed up on the surface quite a few times throughout the history, with each of their appearance practically forcing us to find a defensive cover. We will, however, solve our conundrum in the most fitting way possible, and we’ll do so by bringing regulatory bodies into the fold. Having a well-defined authority across each and every area was a game-changer, as it instantly gave us a safety cushion against our many shortcomings. Now, the kind of utopia you would generally expect from such a development did arrive, but at the same time, it couldn’t really stick around for long. Talk about why that was the case, the answer must include technology before anything else. You see, the moment technology got its layered nature to take over the scene, it allowed every individual an unprecedented chance to exploit others for their own benefit. In case this didn’t sound bad enough, the whole runner soon began to materialize on such a massive scale that it expectantly overwhelmed our governing forces and sent them back to the drawing board. After a lengthy spell in and around the wilderness, though, it seems like the regulatory forces are finally ready to make a comeback. The same has turned more and more evident over the recent past, and truth be told, a new lawsuit might just end up solidifying its traces even further.

A group of anonymous plaintiffs, who filed their taxes online in 2020 using H&R Block, has officially sued Meta in relation to a Markup report, which accused the company of violating users’ trust and privacy. To give you a bit of recap, Markup, just a short while ago, published the results of a secret investigation that discovered how US tax filing services like H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer etc were sending users’ sensitive financial information to Meta through its Pixel tracking tool. But what’s a Pixel tracking tool? Well, it’s basically a piece of code that companies can embed on their websites so they can track visitors’ activities for the purpose of targeting them with the relevant ads. Notably enough, you can also use Pixel to identify users who are on Meta platforms, like Facebook, Instagram etc, and of course, that exact feature would become the centerpiece of this case. As for what information was actually shared by the tax filing services in question, it included various critical details, such as income data, filing statuses, refund amounts, and dependents’ tuition grants.

In response to Markup’s report, Meta pointed out how it prohibits advertisers from sharing personal information and that it uses an automated system to filter out sensitive content sent through Pixel. Now, while even the plaintiffs have acknowledged that Meta does require businesses using Pixel to “have lawful rights to collect, use and share”, they remain dubious about the company’s success in implementing the same.

Despite their integral role in the whole data transaction, though, the tax prep services mentioned in the proverbial report were not named as defendants in the case.

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