Meta sued by anonymous plaintiffs over harvested financial data
Anonymous plaintiffs using H&R Block a US-based tax filing system are suing Meta. They claim that Facebook stole their sensitive financial information and violated their privacy when filing their 2020 taxes.
An investigation by Markup in November revealed that US tax filings services such as H&R Block and TaxAct had secretly sent sensitive financial information to Meta.
The long-running legal battle for Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou has abruptly halted this week, more than four years after her arrest. According to Reuters, US District Judge Ann Donnelly dismissed a Meng indictment on Friday.
H&R Block was sued by meta by anonymous claimants who filed their tax returns online in 2020. They claimed that the company violated users’ privacy and trust. One of the most recent Markup Investigations revealed that H&R Block and other popular tax-filing websites, such as TaxAct or TaxSlayer, sent sensitive financial information to Meta via its pixel tracking tool.
This data contained names, addresses, data about income, filing status, refund status, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts.
Pixel codes collected these data. These codes can be embedded into websites, track users’ online activity, and serve targeted ads. It can also identify users on Meta platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Canadian authorities detained Meng in 2018 on suspicion of violating US sanctions against Iran. Meng, the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei, was arrested in Canada in 2018. She spent the next three decades fighting to extradite to the USA, where she could face up to 30 years for wire and bank fraud charges.
A pixel is an embedded code company can use to track visitors’ activities and identify Instagram and Facebook users for ads. Meta could see that the tax prep websites had been transmitting personal data such as income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ education grant information through this code.
Plaintiffs argued in the lawsuit that while Meta requires Pixel businesses to have a “lawful right to collect, use, and share user data,” the company doesn’t enforce this rule. Instead, it relies on an obsolete and “broken honor system,” which has been the source of many violations.
Meng was under house arrest for three years before she agreed last year with US prosecutors. The incident led to international tensions between China and the United States due to Meng’s detention.
Huawei and its subsidiaries still face charges in the US. The Justice Department announced recently that two Chinese spies were being charged with trying to interfere with a criminal investigation into Huawei.
The FCC banned Huawei’s telecom and video surveillance equipment earlier this week. This was in addition to a few other Chinese companies. Meng is currently the company’s deputy chairperson and rotating chairperson, and she also serves as CFO.
Meta sent a statement to Engadget stating that advertisers are prohibited from sharing personal data and that it uses an automated system to filter sensitive content through pixels. Plaintiffs claim that META does not enforce the rule and instead relies upon an honor system that causes “repeated, documented violations.”