Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 13, 2023. The committee holds hearings to review the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s semi-annual report to Congress.

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A group of lawmakers led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called on the Biden administration to investigate how tax preparation software companies illegally shared customer data with tech platforms. Google and Yuan.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, FTC Chairman Lena Khan, IRS Commissioner Daniel Wayfair and Treasury Department Inspector General J Russell George, the lawmakers listed Key Findings from their own detection Expand the scope of the report Marks and Edges, initially revealing data sharing. The FTC declined to comment on the letter, and the other agencies named did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a report published last year, the publications jointly reported on tax preparation software company TaxSlayer, H&R block TaxAct shared sensitive financial information with Meta’s Facebook through a piece of code called a pixel. The report found that the Meta pixel tracker sent Meta’s name, email, and income information in violation of the platform’s policies.

The report also found that TaxAct has sent Google through its analytics tools, but this information does not include names.

Both Meta and Google told CNBC after the initial reports that they have policies in place that prohibit customers or advertisers from sending them sensitive or identifying information. Some of the statements the tax preparation firm provided to the publication at the time appeared to suggest that the data sharing was done accidentally.

Building on the original report, the group of seven lawmakers launched its own inquiry into the extent of data sharing. In findings released Wednesday, lawmakers said information on millions of taxpayers has been shared with Big Tech via tax preparation software and that both tax preparation firms and tech companies have been “reckless” in the way they handle sensitive information. Although the companies said the information shared was anonymous, lawmakers found experts believed it would not be difficult to link the data to individuals.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Vt., and Rep. Katie Porter, D-Connecticut (Katie Porter) California, with Warren on the investigation and correspondence.

Lawmakers said that while tax preparation firms installed Meta and Google’s tools without fully understanding the privacy implications, the two technology platforms failed to provide sufficient information on how they would collect and use information collected through their tools. information. While both Meta and Google said they had filters in place to catch inadvertently collected sensitive data, they appeared to be “ineffective,” the lawmakers wrote.

The investigation also found that the metatools used by TaxAct allegedly gathered more information than previously reported, including the approximate amount of federal taxes a person owes. They said Meta confirmed that it used data collected from tax software providers “to target advertisements to taxpayers, including companies other than tax preparation firms themselves, and to train Meta’s own artificial intelligence algorithms.”

The group believes their findings indicate that the tax-preparing firms “may have violated the Taxpayer Privacy Act,” which could result in “criminal penalties of up to $1,000 each and up to a year in prison,” the letter said.

After calling on agencies to investigate and prosecute if necessary, the lawmakers noted that the new policy could alleviate the problem in the future.

“We also welcome the recent announcement by the IRS that it will conduct a free, direct filing pilot next year, which will give taxpayers the option to file their taxes without sharing their data with untrustworthy and incompetent tax preparers,” they wrote.

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