- Tax prep services send sensitive financial info to Facebook: And they didn't even know they were doing it.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Tax prep services send sensitive financial info to Facebook (permalink)
If you were unfortunate enough to e-file your US tax using HR Block, Taxact or Taxslayer, your most sensitive financial information was nonconsensually shared with Facebook, where it was added to the involuntary dossier the company maintains billions of people, including people who don't have Facebook accounts.
A blockbuster investigative report from The Markup and The Verge reveals that major tax-prep services illegally embedded the Facebook tracking pixel in their sites, configured so that it transmitted as much data as possible to the surveillance giant.
In their defense, the companies say that they didn't know that they were sending all this data to Facebook, and that they were using Facebook's surveillance pixel to "deliver a more personalized customer experience."
The companies had set the Facebook tracking pixel to use "automatic advanced matching," which scours any page it's embedded in for personally identifying information to harvest and transmit to Facebook.
Facebook claims that it doesn't want this data and won't use it, though the company has been previously caught violating fair finance laws by using finance data to discriminate against Black families:
But it's possible that Facebook isn't using this data – or that it doesn't know whether it's using this data. Facebook's own internal audits show that the company doesn't know what data it collects or how it uses it:
Remember, Facebook claims that it collects your data based on your consent; somehow it thinks that you can consent to collecting and using your data in ways that even Facebook can't describe.
As infuriating as Facebook's role in this data theft is, the real scandal is that Americans have to pay for tax preparation at all. In most of the world's wealthy countries, the tax authorities send taxpayers a precompleted tax-return every year. You can modify this return (on your own or with the help of a tax-prep professional), or you can just mail it back. For free.
This makes sense. The tax authorities already know how much you've made. They know what deductions you're entitled to. It is surreal that you have to pay a professional to fill in a form to tell the IRS a bunch of things it already knows about you.
Every attempt to bring free tax prep to America has been scuttled by an unholy alliance of anti-tax extremists like Grover Norquist (a sadist who wants to make paying your tax as cumbersome and painful as possible) and the multi-billion-dollar, highly concentrated tax-prep industry.
Companies like HR Block and Intuit have spent millions lobbying against free tax prep. It's money well spent, because tax prep makes billions for these companies. The biggest tax prep companies formed something called "the Free File Alliance" that purported to offer free tax-prep to low- and medium-income Americans.
In practice, "free filing" turned out to be a marketing funnel that tricked people into paying for services they were entitled to get for free. Intuit alone stole billions this way:
The monopolists who run America's tax-prep services claim that "government can't do anything well" and insist that the private sector will bring "efficiencies" to tax-prep. In reality, these companies literally have no idea what they're doing – they don't know what data they're collecting, nor who they're sharing it with.
Same goes for Facebook. Companies that are not disciplined by competition or regulation don't have to be good at their jobs. These companies' major competence is lobbying Congress to prevent the passage of meaningful privacy laws and laws that would save Americans billions through IRS-prepared tax-returns.
As Harvard tax-law prof told Propublica, this data Valdez is the "almost inevitable consequence of relying on for-profit companies to handle a government requirement. It’s a process that provides users little choice but to hand over their data to Facebook if they want to comply with the law."
Hey look at this (permalink)
- Greg Bear (1951-2022) https://file770.com/greg-bear-1951-2022/
Global Voices seeks an editor to lead our Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa coverage https://globalvoices.org/2022/11/21/global-voices-seeks-an-editor-to-lead-our-francophone-sub-saharan-africa-coverage
Tumblr to add support for ActivityPub https://techcrunch.com/2022/11/21/tumblr-to-add-support-for-activitypub-the-social-protocol-powering-mastodon-and-other-apps/ (h/t Slashdot)
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Dumbass plan to redesign internet shored up by crooked, lying consultants https://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/22/world/threats-responses-surveillance-terror-tracking-agency-weighed-but-discarded-plan.html
#10yrsago Texas student suspended for refusing RFID tracker https://www.wired.com/2012/11/student-suspension/
#10yrsago Finnish police confiscate 9-y-o’s laptop after she downloads a song from the Pirate Bay https://dublimat.blogspot.com/2012/11/9-year-old-girl-prosecuted-for-piratism.html
#10yrsago Hacker steals entire nation’s identity https://www.loweringthebar.net/2012/11/if-youre-greek-somebody-probably-stole-your-identity.html
#10yrsago Fact-checking US patent-boss’s defense of his job https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/11/us-patent-chief-to-software-patent-critics-give-it-a-rest-already/
#10yrsago Counterfeiters counterfeit anti-counterfeiting notice https://memex.craphound.com/2012/11/22/counterfeiters-counterfeit-anti-counterfeiting-notice/
#10yrsago Spacehawk: the complete collection of Basil Wolverton’s space crusader https://memex.craphound.com/2012/11/22/spacehawk-the-complete-collection-of-basil-wolvertons-space-crusader/
#5yrsago Connected sex-toy allows for code-injection attacks on a robot you wrap around your genitals https://twitter.com/SarahJamieLewis/status/933150566347284481
#5yrsago Why we should cheer the DoJ’s lawsuit to block the AT&T/Time-Warner merger https://www.wired.com/story/why-the-government-is-right-to-block-the-atandt-time-warner-merger/
#5yrsago For more than half a century, the sugar industry has used Big Tobacco tactics to suppress sugar/cancer link and to confuse the science https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003460
#5yrsago Cops chase innocent shoplifting suspect into stranger’s house, then storm it with 50-person SWAT team and blow up every room except one https://thefreethoughtproject.com/cop-watch/fifty-swat-cops-tore-down-house-shoplifting
#5yrsago Trump’s top economic advisor couldn’t bear to listen to the president bloviate so he pretended he had a bad connection and hung up https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/11/22/gary-cohn-trump-tax-reform-bad-phone-connection-carper-sot-nr.cnn
#5yrsago Trump found someone even worse than Tom Price to regulate Health and Human Services: an insulin profiteer https://medium.com/@caitlynmcclure/dude-who-tripled-price-of-insulin-nominated-to-regulate-price-of-insulin-bf9a25e609b7
#5yrsago “Less lethal” is a deceptive term to describe the weapons that routinely kill and maim peaceful protesters https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/homer-venters-crowd-control-weapons/
#5yrsago States suspend your driver’s license over inability to pay court fines, costing you your job and any ability to repay https://www.vice.com/en/article/59yvwx/the-vicious-cycle-of-losing-a-drivers-license-over-court-debt
#5yrsago Behold! The astonishing mental gymnastics of TSA apologists explaining why rich people don’t need to be screened https://memex.craphound.com/2017/11/22/behold-the-astonishing-mental-gymnastics-of-tsa-apologists-explaining-why-rich-people-dont-need-to-be-screened/
#5yrsago Uber admits it breached 57,000,000 accounts, then bribed the hackers to cover it up, now they’re paying a top ex-NSA lawyer to teach them transparency https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-21/uber-concealed-cyberattack-that-exposed-57-million-people-s-data
#1yrago Private ambulances want a ban on firefighters rescuing babies https://pluralistic.net/2021/11/22/amr-vs-babies/#unauthorized-ambulance
Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/).
- The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Yesterday's progress: 545 words (64000 words total)
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE
A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/
- Kim Stanley Robinson's Gold Coast (California Book Club), Nov 22
Conversation with Tim Wu, Informed/Knight Foundation (Miami), Nov 30:
Library Learning Experience/American Library Association (New Orleans), Jan 27-30
Australian Digital Alliance Copyright Forum (Canberra), Feb 17:
Antitrust, Regulation and the Political Economy (Brussels), Mar 2:
- Business Without Bullshit
Team Human interview
- "Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023
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