In brief: Authorities are always looking for advantages in their battle against tax dodgers, and it seems France’s government just got such a boon. Thanks to a recent ruling from the country’s Constitutional Court, tax collectors will soon be able to examine the social media accounts of potential tax evaders for evidence of wrongdoing.
The data French authorities will now be allowed to “review” includes content like posts, profile descriptions, and photos. As you can imagine, some folks are none too pleased with this latest development and feel it poses a risk to privacy.
That’s a fair concern. Sure, it’s always been unwise to post content on social media that you want to keep private, but it’s tough to say what content might constitute evidence of tax evasion. What if you post a photo of a new car or an expensive smartphone?
Would that put you on a tax authority’s radar, or are there other red flags these groups look for? Perhaps these new rules will simply deter people from posting on social media at all, or at least force them to censor themselves (neither outcome is ideal where freedom of expression is concerned).
At any rate, it’s worth noting that there are a few restrictions on these data collection efforts. For example, authorities cannot access any content that is “password-protected,” and they can only use public information “pertaining to the person divulging it online,” according to Reuters.
In other words, it seems authorities can’t scan the social media posts of your friend for evidence against you (in regards to tax laws, specifically). If they are going to use social media content as proof of tax evasion, it must be content you’ve divulged, if we’re
Of course, these caveats probably won’t do much to soothe the fears of France’s privacy-minded citizens. They, along with the rest of the world, are already having their social media data harvested by giant tech companies, and these new regulator freedoms only make matters worse.