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Category Archives: E-Government

Tax filing websites have been sending users’ financial information to Facebook

The Verge co-published with The Markup: “Major tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook when Americans file their taxes online, The Markup has learned. The data, sent through widely used code called the Meta Pixel, includes not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts. The information sent to Facebook can be used by the company to power its advertising algorithms and is gathered regardless of whether the person using the tax filing service has an account on Facebook or other platforms operated by its owner Meta.  Each year, the Internal Revenue Service processes about 150 million individual returns filed electronically, and some of the most widely used e-filing services employ the pixel, The Markup found.  When users sign up to file their taxes with the popular service TaxAct, for example, they’re asked to provide personal information to calculate their returns, including how much money they make and their investments. A pixel on TaxAct’s website then sent some of that data to Facebook, including users’ filing status, their adjusted gross income, and the amount of their refund, according to a review by The Markup. Income was rounded to the nearest thousand and refunds to the nearest hundred. The pixel also sent the names of dependents in an obfuscated — but generally reversible — format. TaxAct, which says it has about 3 million “consumer and professional users” also uses Google’s analytics tool on its website, and The Markup found similar financial data, but not names, being sent to Google through its tool.”

See also ProPublica: Inside TurboTax’s 20-Year Fight to Stop Americans From Filing Their Taxes for Free Using lobbying, the revolving door and “dark pattern” customer tricks, Intuit fended off the government’s attempts to make tax filing free and easy, and created its multi-billion-dollar franchise.

Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

CDC FluView – “All data are preliminary and may change as more reports are received. A description of the CDC influenza surveillance system, including methodology and detailed descriptions of each data component is available on the surveillance methods page. Additional information on the current and previous influenza seasons for each surveillance component are available on… Continue Reading

AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not

“Google agreed to pay $391.5M to settle a lawsuit with 40 U.S. states over allegations that the tech giant was tracking user location data even when users had opted out. A 2018 Associated Press (AP) investigation found that the tracking issue affected as many as two billion people using Google Android devices and hundreds of millions… Continue Reading

Mysterious company with government ties plays key internet role

Washington Post: “An offshore company that is trusted by the major web browsers and other tech companies to vouch for the legitimacy of websites has connections to contractors for U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement, according to security researchers, documents and interviews. Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, nonprofit Firefox and others allow the company, TrustCor Systems,… Continue Reading

Reuse DC

“Reuse DC is the District’s hub for learning where to repair, donate, and shop second-hand household items. Search the online directory, explore how to exchange items with your neighbors, learn about the importance of food recovery, and more!” Continue Reading

Algorithms Quietly Run the City of DC and Maybe Your Hometown

EPIC: “The D.C. government outsources critical governmental decisions to automated decision-making systems in areas such as public benefits, healthcare, policing, and housing. As a result, District residents are surveilled, screened, and scored every day. But because of weak government transparency laws, opaque procurement processes, the power and influence of tech vendors, and the decline in… Continue Reading

Your Guide to America’s Finances

“Your Guide to America’s Finances is an overview of U.S. government finances where you’ll find information on money coming in (revenue), money going out (spending), the deficit, and debt. Your Guide presents a series of pages exploring each topic through educational content and interactive visualizations, providing a comprehensive overview of the trillions of dollars collected… Continue Reading

Fuels Knowledge Graph Project

“The Fuels Knowledge Graph Project (FKGP), funded through the Federal Chief Data Officers (CDO) Council, explored the use of knowledge graphs to achieve more consistent and reliable fuel management performance measures. The team hypothesized that better performance measures and an interoperable semantic framework could enhance the ability to understand wildfires and, ultimately, improve outcomes. To… Continue Reading