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Google faces complaints for collecting sensitive information

Julie Rubash, Chief Privacy Counsel
August 21, 2023

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United States

Google Sued for Collecting Sensitive Financial Data From Tax Websites

class action lawsuit alleging violations of federal and state wiretapping laws was filed against Google based on Google’s collection of sensitive financial information from tax filing services H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer through use of Google Analytics and the Google Tag on the companies’ websites.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that user tax return data, including the dollar amount of adjusted gross income and refund amounts, were disclosed to Google without user consent in a manner that constitutes intentional interception of the contents of communication in violation of the Federal Wiretap Act and similar state wiretapping laws. The complaint also makes common law claims of invasion of privacy and intrusion upon seclusion. 

TAKEAWAY

This lawsuit was filed shortly after, and is based on, an investigation completed by a group of federal lawmakers revealing that the tax prep companies sent taxpayer information to both Google and Meta through installation of Meta and Google pixels.

According to Senator Warren’s announcement of the investigation, the tax prep companies indicated that they installed the pixels and tools without fully understanding the extent to which they would send taxpayer data to the tech firms. 

Lawmakers Urge FTC to Investigate Google COPPA Violations

U.S. Senators Markey and Blackburn sent a letter to Lina Khan, Chair of the FTC, urging the FTC to investigate YouTube’s and parent company Google’s collection and distribution of children’s data to advertisers without parental consent. Specifically, the lawmakers site research conducted by Adalytics reportedly revealing the collection of data from viewers of child-directed YouTube videos and use of audience identifiers to target advertisements on kid-directed content, all without parental consent.

The lawmakers urge that, if violations are found, the FTC take action to stop the collection and monetization of data from children under age 13 and require deletion previously collected data, as well as to investigate downstream impacts, including use of the data by advertisers and data brokers.

TAKEAWAY

Senator Markey is also the sponsor of a Senate bill to enact the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, which would amend COPPA to expand its reach, including by expressly prohibiting targeted marketing (or allowing for the collection of information by others for targeted marketed) from services directed to children or teens or in a manner reasonably likely to involve the collection of personal information from a child or teen.     

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A Little Privacy, Please weekly recaps are provided for general, informational purposes only, do not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon for legal decision-making. Please consult an attorney to determine how legal updates may impact you or your business.

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