French plan to scan social media for tax fraud causes concerns

French plan to scan social media for tax fraud causes concerns

The French parliament is set to debate a proposal to allow the tax office’s computer system to collect information from social media networks for a trial period of three years. The government is considering allowing authorities to monitor the social media accounts of French taxpayers to root out possible fraud. In addition to watching what people flaunt on sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, authorities will keep an eye on purchases on sites such as eBay and the French equivalent, Le Bon Coin.

The system would be able to determine a person’s primary residence and potentially detect customs fraud on online sales sites, the Guardian reported. It would rely on freely accessible information.

What causes concerns is the protection of data gathered by the fiscal administration. If enacted, it could infringe on freedom of thought and expression, according to a warning of a watchdog group, the National Commission for Data Protection and Liberties (CNIL). The worry is also that data could be mined automatically rather than gathered in a targeted manner.

However controversial the proposal might seem it is likely similar could be discussed by administrations in other countries in the near future. A similar program is already in use in the United Kingdom. Just in France tax evasion cost the government an estimated 80 billion to 100 billion EUR in 2017, in comparison to up from 60 billion to 80 billion EUR in 2013, according to Solidaires Finances Publiques.

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