H&R Blockhead (Continued)
[I]f you’re one of the millions who this year have used the electronic services of Intuit’s TurboTax or H&R Block, you may not know that a stealthy technology commonly known as Web bugs was used to track your comings and goings on the Internet.
Both Intuit and Block, which offer electronic filing for free through the IRS’ Free File program, use hidden Web bugs throughout the tax-preparation process to monitor taxpayers’ online behavior.
Web bugs, also known as Web beacons, are virtually ubiquitous among sites belonging to large companies (including The Chronicle).
The technology connects a company’s site with that of an affiliated marketing firm, which collects and analyzes data on Web usage. Intuit and Block say Web bugs are employed only to maintain the quality of their respective offerings.
Let me explain this in English: they are using technology that reports back how you move through the tax application to a marketing partner.
Of course, they deny that they’re actually releasing any of the collected data.
GRRR!!! HULK SMASH!!!
Here’s the thing. I don’t necessarily have a problem with them using cookies, sessions, etc. to follow me through the app. It’s useful for them to know where people get stuck, for example, so they can make those parts easier to use.
But anything in something as financially sensitive as my taxes gets routed through a third party, I should be asked to agree to first.
That means either Block learns how to track its own sessions, or they put up a notice at the start of the tax interview saying “We partner with Omniture, Inc. to monitor usage of this application. Data gathered through this process is private and will never be released to parties other than H&R Block, Omniture, Inc., and the individual user.” or something similar, and ask “Is this OK? Yes/No”.
Of course, right now they do nothing of the sort. Thanks Blockheads!