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Tax prep software was sending info back to Meta

It’s no secret that Meta’s Facebook actively wants to collect as much information on you as possible. The more it knows about your habits and hobbies, the better it can serve targeted ads and buying suggestions. Tap or click here for 10 Facebook privacy and security settings to change right now.

It’s something that most users are aware of by now. While you might rather see ads for products you’re interested in, there are certain things that Facebook doesn’t need to know about you.

Read on to learn how Meta accessed financial information from tax preparation software and what you can do about it.

Here’s the backstory

Several websites use a Meta Pixel in their code, which sends information to Facebook about the user’s activities on the site. Through this Meta Pixel, Facebook knows what you searched for online or your recent purchases. It then uses that information to serve you with targeted advertising.

Researchers at The Markup found that some tax prep websites have also been secretly sending your data to Meta.

Popular sites such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer included the Meta Pixel and sent sensitive data to the social media giant, including users’ filing status, adjusted gross income, and the amount of their refund.

A spokesperson for Ramsey Solutions, a financial advice and software company that uses a version of TaxSlayer’s service, said the company wasn’t aware that personal tax information was being collected.

“As soon as we found out, we immediately informed TaxSlayer to deactivate the Pixel from Ramsey SmartTax,” she said.

This isn’t the first time that Meta Pixel caused a privacy breach. Just last month, the medical records of 3 million people were exposed thanks to Meta’s tracking tech. Tap or click here for the story and what you can do if you were part of the breach.

What you can do about it

Tax preparation software in the U.S. is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s hard to avoid using third-party applications or companies when you need help. There are several free options available, but those are generally limited to people earning $73,000 or less.

Is there anything you can do about it if you use one of the companies that send your tax information to Meta? According to Mandi Matlock, a Harvard Law School lecturer, there isn’t.

“It’s frustrating because taxpayers have been pushed into the arms of these private, for-profit companies simply to comply with their tax filing obligations. We have no choice, really, in the matter,” Matlock told The Markup.

Well, you can do something regarding Facebook.

Change your Facebook privacy settings

If you have a Facebook account, review your privacy settings. When you visit a website or use an app, it may share your data with Facebook. This is used for targeted advertising and suggestions on the Facebook platform. You can review, delete and disable this setting.

Manage off Facebook activity on your computer

  • Click the down arrow or your profile in the top-right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Privacy and then Your Facebook Information from the left column.
  • Select Off-Facebook Activity to review.
  • Click Clear Previous Activity to delete your history so far.
  • Click Disconnect Future Activity, then toggle off Future Facebook Activity.
  • Confirm your choice and you’re done.

Manage off Facebook activity on mobile

  • Tap the three-line menu in the bottom right of the Facebook app.
  • Select Settings or the gear icon.
  • Scroll down and select Off-Facebook activity.
  • Tap Clear History.
  • Tap Disconnect Future Activity, then toggle off Future Off-Facebook Activity.
  • Tap Turn off to confirm your choice.

Drop Facebook for good

If you really want to take back your privacy from Meta, delete your Facebook account. But before you do so, download your photos, videos and any other data you may want. Tap or click here for our guide on getting your data off Facebook.

Ready to say goodbye to Facebook for good? Here’s how to do it from your computer.

  • Log into Facebook and click the downward-facing arrow in the top-right.
  • Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Select Your Facebook Information in the left column.
  • Click Deactivation and deletion.
  • Select Delete account, then Continue to account deletion.
  • Click Delete account and enter your password, then click Continue.

You have 30 days to change your mind about deleting your account. After that time passes, you can’t take it back. To cancel the deletion process, log in to your Facebook account and click Cancel Deletion.

Keep reading

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