Author archives

Colin Lecher is a reporter based in New York. His work on technology and society has received honors from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Deadline Club, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and more. Before joining The Markup, he was a senior reporter with The Verge. There, he reported on issues like automated cuts to healthcare, access to phone services in prisons, and the online gun market.

Mortgage Brokers Sent People’s Estimated Credit, Address, and Veteran Status to Facebook

When someone applies for a mortgage, they trust a home loan lender or mortgage broker with some of the most sensitive information they have: information about their credit, their home, and the personal details of their lives. Unbeknownst to those prospective homeowners, they may also be sharing that information with Facebook. The Markup tested more than 700 websites that offer loans for people looking to purchase or refinance a home, from major online brokers to lesser-known regional lenders, and found that more than 200 of them share some amount of user data with Facebook. On their sites, these companies embedded the Meta Pixel, a small piece of tracking software that shares visitors’ information with Facebook. As users filled out mortgage applications or requested quotes for mortgage rates, the pixel tracked information about their credit, veteran status, occupation, the specific homes they wanted, and more. Experts told Colin Lecher and Ross Teixeira of The Markup that it might be against the law for mortgage lenders to feed this kind of information to Facebook.

Subjects: Business Research, Financial System, Legal Research, Privacy, Social Media

Suicide Hotlines Promise Anonymity. Dozens of Their Websites Send Sensitive Data to Facebook

Reporter Colin Lecher and Data Journalist Jon Kreeger discuss how websites for mental health crisis resources across the country—which promise anonymity for visitors, many of whom are at a desperate moment in their lives—have been quietly sending sensitive visitor data to Facebook. Dozens of websites tied to the national mental health crisis 988 hotline, which launched last summer, transmit the data through a tool called the Meta Pixel, according to testing conducted by The Markup. That data often included signals to Facebook when visitors attempted to dial for mental health emergencies by tapping on dedicated call buttons on the websites.

Subjects: Big Data, Health, Healthcare, KM, Legal Research, Social Media