Investigations in The Markup’s Pixel Hunt series won the 2023 National Press Club Consumer Journalism award in the periodical and online publications category. The awards celebrate the “very best in journalism” that serves the public.
The five stories recognized by the The National Press Club detail how trackers from Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, and other large tech companies are often collecting sensitive information about users from websites regularly used by the public:
- Facebook Is Receiving Sensitive Medical Information from Hospital Websites
Experts say some hospitals’ use of an ad tracking tool may violate a federal law protecting health information
- Tax Filing Websites Have Been Sending Users’ Financial Information to Facebook
The Markup found services including TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and H&R Block sending sensitive data
- “Out Of Control”: Dozens of Telehealth Startups Sent Sensitive Health Information to Big Tech Companies
An investigation by The Markup and STAT found 49 out of 50 telehealth websites sharing health data via Big Tech’s tracking tools
- Applied for Student Aid Online? Facebook Saw You
The FAFSA form included code that sent personal information back to Facebook
- How We Built a Meta Pixel Inspector
The first large-scale, crowdsourced study that monitors how Meta tracks people across the internet
A big congratulations to everyone who has worked on this series. Congratulations as well to our partners at STAT and The Verge, who have either coreported or copublished stories in this series with us.
Our investigations led to broad impact and swift change. For example:
- On July 12, a congressional investigation led by Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren cited and confirmed The Markup’s investigation that found that tax filing websites transmitted taxpayer data to Meta.
- Many of the companies and organizations we’ve reported on—hospitals, health systems, telehealth websites, tax companies, and the Department of Education—have removed or reined in the use of the Meta Pixel and other trackers.
- Three big tech companies—Google, Snap, and Pinterest—said they had taken action to investigate or stop the data sharing from the telehealth companies.
- Millions of patients have received data breach notifications from hospitals or health systems.
- The coverage helped prompt multiple class action lawsuits and was cited in new guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services, in hearings in the U.S. Senate, and in multiple calls for action from Congress.
The Markup is continuing to investigate websites that have shared sensitive data through the Meta Pixel and other trackers:
- Suicide Hotlines Promise Anonymity. Dozens of Their Websites Send Sensitive Data to Facebook
The Markup found many sites tied to the national mental health crisis hotline transmitted information on visitors through the Meta Pixel
- Need to Get Plan B or an HIV Test Online? Facebook May Know About It
Twelve of the largest drug stores in the U.S. sent shoppers’ sensitive health information to Facebook or other platforms, according to an investigation by The Markup and KFF Health News
- In 2023, Resolve to Fix Your Organization’s Meta Pixel Problem
It’s time to be proactive about user privacy. Find out if you’re sending too much data to Facebook—or if you need to send data at all