Recently, the IRS has been quietly upgrading its technology so tax collectors can virtually track everything people do online. The original article points out how intrusive the new measures really are. The IRS is collecting personal information on taxpayer’s digital activities from Facebook posts to credit card transactions. The basis for this massive data collection is to close the gap in revenue losses due to evasions and errors. Given the reduction of IRS staff because of budget cuts, and about $300 billion a year in revenue losses, it is understandable that the IRS would utilize technology to do its job more efficiently.
The IRS has already used data gathered from Facebook and eBay postings to defend tax challenges. As of now third-party data has been used only if a person’s tax returns appear irregular and merit more attention. If someone breaks the law (i.e. evading taxes) it is clear they give up their right to privacy. However, if the IRS already has a method of punishing tax evaders then why is there a need to implement data collection on a petabyte scale?
Yes, for those who do not know: an entire year of tax returns amounts to 15 terabytes which is about 1.5% of the 1.2 petabytes (and growing) of storage capacity the IRS currently has.
This is where things get a little tricky when it comes to privacy because “by screening existing data for thousands of unique attributes, the agency can quietly create a DNA-like code to understand the economic behavior of any individual.” The IRS claims this is for data collection purposes only and has not yet decided how to implement this technology. Do you think the government has the right to monitor your online activity while essentially formulating an economic profile of you based on your behavior?
Is it just the government adapting to the times in order to keep people honest or is it another way the government is trying to keep Americans under a microscope?