Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
If you file taxes with TurboTax, use the budgeting app Mint, or run a small business with QuickBooks, Intuit — the parent company of all of these services — knows as much about you as your bank does, if not more.
Why it matters: The company can cross-sell its own products as well as products and services from third parties — like a Capital One Platinum Credit Card or a loan from Lending Club — based on what it knows about you.
Driving the news: Intuit said Tuesday it had agreed to buy analytics company Origami Logic, effectively doubling down on the use of customer data to enhance its marketing. The acquisition will "accelerate Intuit’s ability to organize, understand, and use data to deliver personalized insights," Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi said in a press release.
Details: Whether you're using Mint to keep a monthly budget or a DIY taxpayer who enjoys the ease of TurboTax, some of your information is shared across all of the company's platforms, per the company's privacy statement.
- TurboTax, the Intuit product with the biggest household name, collects the sensitive details necessary to do your taxes: your Social Security number, where you work, your income, whether you own a home, what deductions you're eligible for, and where you bank.
- By giving your information to TurboTax, you also give it to Intuit, which can share it with its other business lines. Intuit requires one account for all of its products, though signing up for one does not automatically sign you up for all.
- Even if your bank doesn't have an agreement with Intuit, you can sync your accounts using your bank login and password so that Mint can "scrape" your transactions, finding out what bills you have and when they're due.
- Come tax season, Mint can find 1099 tax documents from financial institutions linked to your account and import them to TurboTax.
- "With your consent," the company says on a FAQ page, "Mint will use your tax and credit information to show you personalized recommendations that can help save money and improve your financial health."
But, but, but: What Intuit can do with your data without your permission is regulated, thanks to a rule that prohibits tax preparers from using your information to sell you other services without your permission.
- So, Intuit is required to ask if it can use your TurboTax information for purposes "other than the preparation and filing of your tax return." But the form, at first glance, does not make it clear whether you need to agree to this in order to file your taxes. (You don't.)
- If you give Intuit permission, the company can share your data with third parties to "provide personalized offers and advice for your unique financial profile," per the disclosure form, though the company tells Axios in a statement that "all offers to Mint and Turbo users are generated by us and our systems, not third parties or partners."
Intuit doesn't just hand over your Social Security number to any old advertising partner it signs up. But if it shows you a marketing offer and you go for it — perhaps you do want that Capital One card or Lending Club loan — your consent means Intuit "may exchange your information" with the other company, Intuit's privacy statement says.
- Opting out is possible to some extent. A page where Intuit lets customers choose their "marketing preferences" states: "We do not share personal information with outside companies for their promotional use."
The bottom line: A spokesperson tells Axios via email: "Intuit does not sell customer data. Period." But the company's privacy statement is more qualified: It says Intuit doesn't sell or share customer data with third parties for their own commercial uses "without your consent."