June 18, 2024

Meta (Facebook) gets visitors’ personal data, which in the case of mortgage brokers includes estimated credit, veteran status, occupation, co-borrowers’ names, bankruptcy, home ownership and citizenship status, interest in specific homes, as well as their addresses.

Another big source of Facebook’s “bread and butter” – namely, people’s personal data – has been highlighted in a new investigative report, which identified that source as the online mortgage brokers industry.

These are companies that act as intermediaries between borrowers and lenders, and when people either apply for a loan or seek refinancing, they give up highly sensitive information, trusting that it will be used by those firms alone.

But The Markup reveals that this data, in an alarming number of cases (over 200 out of about 700 tested broker websites), gets “shared” with Facebook.

The sites are run by both major and smaller companies – one of them being the Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, a top US lender. And Fairway Independent is among the sites that give data to Facebook.

When contacted by the publication, this company said that it has discontinued the practice and that personally identifiable information was not made available to Facebook before – but a representative stopped short of explaining what they consider to be identifiable information.

The article mentions a number of sites involved in similar data collecting and sharing schemes, and details scenarios under which this is happening. Not all were willing to comment at all – not even to the extent of Fairway Independent’s not-overly-useful response.

What reveals that a site is engaged in this practice is the presence of the Meta Pixel tracker; the JavaScript snippet is embedded in websites, and Meta promotes it as a way for those sites to optimize their targeted ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.

In return, Meta (Facebook) gets visitors’ personal data, which in the case of mortgage brokers includes estimated credit, veteran status, occupation, co-borrowers’ names, bankruptcy, home ownership and citizenship status, interest in specific homes, as well as their addresses, writes The Markup.

“At a minimum legally dubious” is how George Washington University law professor Alicia Solow-Niederman described this.

Meanwhile over at Facebook – which claims it is trying to stop Meta Pixel users from sending sensitive data, but doesn’t say if it’s succeeding – not even the giant’s engineers seem certain how the system works.

“The engineers wrote in a document obtained by Vice’s Motherboard in 2022 that they ‘do not have an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data’,” the article noted.

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