Lithuania And Estonia Use Google Maps Street View To Catch Tax Cheats
from the small-pieces-loosely-joined dept
As we've noted before, the information captured by Google's Street View has been put to some surprising uses, and the Boston Globe has come across a further fascinating example from Lithuania:
Sitting in the comfort of their own offices, inspectors used the free Internet program for a virtual cruise around the streets of some of the Baltic country's big cities, uncovering dozens of alleged tax violations involving housing construction and property sales.
Ars Technica points out that Estonia is doing the same. This might lead to demands for houses to be blurred, as can be requested in Germany. But the Boston Globe article notes that it's not just Street View that tax authorities are mining for clues about people not paying all their taxes:
They identified 100 homeowners and 30 construction companies as suspected tax dodgers thanks to Street View, finding homes where they shouldn't be and other suspicious activity, Darius Buta, a spokesman for the State Tax Inspectorate, said Wednesday.
In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service has said it would be cross-referencing information from taxpayers' Facebook and Twitter accounts if their returns threw up any red flags.
The ability to draw on the massive stores of data that are now publicly available means that even seemingly trivial information, when cross-referenced with more of the same, can allow governments and others to create surprisingly detailed profiles of people that may have far from trivial consequences.
In Britain, tax officials have revealed they are using Web crawling software to trawl auction websites for undeclared sales.
Authorities in Greece have been using satellite imagery to locate undeclared swimming pools in wealthy neighborhoods.