Authors: Margot De Almeida
Title : Internet monitoring by the tax authorities
Internet monitoring by the tax authorities
In order to fight tax fraud, the tax authorities are now turning to the surveillance of social networks and online platforms.
Since 1 January 2021, tax officials and customs officers have been able to collect public user data from social networks and online platforms (Twitter, Leboncoin, Facebook, Instagram) in order to detect and punish tax and customs offences (concealment of income, false declarations, trafficking) that fall into the category of tax or customs fraud. This implementation of data collection and exploitation has been included in the decree of 13 February 2021, allowing agents to start collecting data.
I – Limits to data collection
One of the limits to data collection is that it is not possible to use facial recognition systems. It is not possible to collect these personal data, only the data that users have voluntarily made public can be necessary to identify potential fraud. The decree specifies that this can be content accessible to all, without the need to enter a password or to be registered on the social network or online platform. The decree adds that it is not possible for agents to use assumed identities by creating accounts to access this data, nor to use information in comments linked to a personal page.
The decree provides for two distinct phases: the learning and design phase and the operating phase.
– In the learning and design phase, the agents develop tools to facilitate fraud searches, which will subsequently enable them to detach information from the mass of data, particularly by means of keywords and typology. These tools will also make it possible to associate a person with all the accounts he or she may have online. The system will cross-reference the data with geographical locations, making it possible to identify geographical location indicators.
– In the exploitation phase, the agents will exploit the data to search for and pursue potential tax or customs fraud. To do this, they have access to automated tax fraud processing software that allows them to make comparisons. If they observe fraud or indications of fraud, all the information is transmitted by the agents to the tax or customs inspectors so that they can carry out inspection operations.
II – Duration of data retention.
During the learning and exploitation phase, the duration of the data collected varies according to their nature:
– 5 days before their destruction for account identification data and sensitive personal data.
– 1 year for data likely to contribute to the detection of fraud or constituting an indication of fraud
– The entire duration of the procedure when the data is used in the context of a criminal, tax or customs procedure
– 30 days for other data.
These methods ensure that the State can control and monitor taxpayers’ computer data, thus limiting the risk of fraud.
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