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Tax Filing Websites Have Been Sending Users’ Financial Information to Facebook

The Verge reported:

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.

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.

Mask Mandate Return? HHS Report Wants to ‘Encourage or Mandate’ Masking to Stop Long COVID

Fox News reported:

Masking and social distancing should be encouraged or even mandated once more in public in order to protect people from COVID-19 and from the possibility of suffering from “Long COVID,” according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The report, commissioned by HHS and produced by research agency Coforma, calls for a broad range of government policies to help people who continue to deal with the lingering effects of COVID. Those policies include an awareness campaign, funding for long COVID support groups, financial support for students and workers and new health benefits for COVID victims.

Reinstating a mask mandate may be the most controversial recommendation in the report, which says ending that mandate in late 2021 and 2022 is making it harder for people with long COVID.

GOP Vows to Investigate Military Chiefs, Make Them Answer ‘Tough Questions’

Newsweek reported:

Representative Jim Banks has said Republicans will investigate military leaders and make them answer “tough questions.” Republicans won the House with a slim majority in this month’s midterm elections, and in an appearance on Fox News, Banks, who is on the House Armed Services Committee, laid out how Republicans plan to use their new power next year.

Banks said one thing military leaders will be questioned about is the military members who were discharged after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Department of Defense announced that it would make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory in the summer of 2021. Republicans will “make them answer to why they denied so many religious exemptions when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Banks said. “Ask them why they’re getting rid of all of these heroes, men and women in uniform, for not taking the vaccine.”

The U.S. Army said 1,760 active soldiers had been separated due to vaccine refusal as of Oct. 13, while the Navy reported that 1,544 active sailors and 327 reservists had been separated as of Oct. 26. The Marines said 3,584 Marines have been separated for vaccine refusal as of Nov. 3.

The Air Force said it had separated 834 service members as of July 11 but has not updated the number since due to a pending lawsuit. A federal judge in July issued an injunction that stops the branch from disciplining or separating anyone who filed a religious exemption request, according to the Air Force Times.

Pressure Mounts on TikTok Amid Probe Into National Security, Privacy Threats

FOXBusiness reported:

Bipartisan pressure is mounting on the video-sharing app TikTok amid an ongoing probe into potential threats it poses to U.S. national security. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company based in Beijing, which has sparked concerns that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could compel the app to turn over American users’ data or expose them to propaganda.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that “TikTok is an enormous threat.” He explained that parents should be “very concerned” because “all of that data that your child is inputting and receiving is being stored somewhere in Beijing.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., expressed similar concerns about TikTok in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, saying the app “is one of the most massive surveillance programs ever, especially on America’s young people.”

TikTok and ByteDance are currently under investigation by the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which evaluates national security risks associated with foreign-owned companies operating in the U.S. or foreign investments in American companies.

‘Users Have a Right to Know’: Class-Action Lawsuit Sheds Light on Google’s Opaque Data-Mining Practices

ZeroHedge reported:

It turns out that big tech companies may not be as committed to your privacy as their PR departments would have you believe — go figure. The latest example of this reality appears to be Google, who was revealed last week by MarketWatch to have data-mining practices that employees say that they sometimes “don’t understand and can’t describe.”

The report cited a class-action lawsuit alleging that Google “violated promises not to collect data of those using the browser without signing into their Google accounts.” Documents recently became unsealed in the case, offering a look into how privacy is discussed internally at Google. In the lawsuit, one unnamed employee seemed to make it clear that Google’s privacy policies are opaque, stating: “I don’t have the faintest idea what Google has on me. The fact that we can’t explain what we have […] on users is probably our biggest challenge.”

“Users have a right to know,” one employee said. Another commented: “The reasons we provide are so high level and abstract that they don’t make sense to people.” A third employee said: “Consent is no longer consent if you think of ads as a product.”

As the report notes, ads are a material revenue generator for Google, making up $209.5 billion in sales for the company in its 2021 fiscal year.

Beijing Requires COVID Test Results Within 48 Hours to Enter Public Places — Official

Reuters reported:

China’s capital Beijing reported 634 new local COVID cases on Tuesday, the deputy director of city’s municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Liu Xiaofeng said at a briefing.

The capital city will require a negative PCR test result within 48 hours for people to enter public places such as shopping malls, hotels and government buildings from Nov. 24, city government spokesperson Xu Hejian told the same briefing.

Tech Watchdog Demands U.K. Antitrust Investigation of Amazon’s iRobot Buyout

Forbes reported:

Foxglove Legal, the tech watchdog group that has taken on Facebook and Palantir, has its sights on a new target. The London-based nonprofit said Tuesday that it has sent a letter to the U.K.’s competition agency demanding it investigate Amazon’s planned $1.7 billion acquisition of the Roomba maker iRobot.

The request comes two months after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in September announced its own antitrust probe into the deal, concerned about the unfair advantage Amazon could gain by potentially learning the layouts of people’s houses or collecting even more granular data about users’ home lifestyles. The deal, which Amazon disclosed in August, is one of several acquisitions that the company has made over the last few years as it has sprawled into new industries.

The letter, sent to the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority and shared exclusively with Forbes, accuses Amazon of unfairly using its dominance to stomp out rivals in the world of household consumer products. Over the past several years, Amazon has become a formidable player in smart home technology, with its Alexa voice platform, Ring doorbells and Echo speakers and smart displays.

Amazon has already bought its way into several new categories — or strengthened its position in industries it already occupies — with its buyouts: There’s grocery stores with its Whole Foods purchase, health tech with OneMedical and movie making with MGM.

Canada Tells World Leaders to Clamp Down on Online ‘Misinformation’

Reclaim the Net reported:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino are doing the rounds, insisting on the need to fight online harassment and misinformation.

At the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Trudeau said that Canada wants to regulate online “harassment and violence.” He added that Canada’s social media platforms have a responsibility to “address online harassment and violence to ensure trust in technology.”

At the G7 summit in Germany, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told other interior and security ministers there is a need to tackle disinformation. On Nov. 17, he tweeted that “the G7 stands united” when it comes to “addressing the rise of mis and disinformation online.”

On Nov. 19, Mendicino tweeted that Canada will host a G7 summit next year to fight “disinformation.” During the summit, he suggested the education of high school students on how to identify disinformation, as well as online scams and fraudulent emails and texts.