IRS Stalks Taxpayers On Social Media To Determine Whom To Audit

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There’s government electronic surveillance, and then there’s government online stalking. In its mission to ensure the government gets every last dollar it can from people, the Internal Revenue Service is now resorting to the latter.

In one of those public radio stories that sounds like superficial fluff until you listen to the words, public radio’s “Marketplace” ran a story this week discussing how the IRS appears to take advantage of the confluence of Big Data and old-fashioned snooping on social media to determine whether private residents’ tax filings jibe with what they tell the online world about their earning and spending habits.

Because of budget cuts, the IRS will have fewer auditing agents than at any time since the 1980s.

Enter robots. After all, the IRS may not have a whole lot of money or manpower, but it has a gold mine of data on you. A lot of it from… well… you.

…Those fancy vacation photos you posted on Instagram? The Facebook status update about your new car? The tweets about your wildly successful side business?

All fair game for the IRS.

While the agency is secretive about its methods for determining whom it elects to audit, the IRS appears to be “seriously gearing up its data mining, using tools like online activity trackers to enhance the vast cache of information it’s already privy to: your Social Security number, your health records, your banking transactions,” the story reports.

Of course, it’s not impossible to dodge the IRS’ online stalking force — much of which may simply be computer bots that sweep social media sites using algorithms that agency won’t disclose or even acknowledge.

All you have to do is have virtually no presence on the Internet — or if you depend on social media to promote your business, church, school or charity — to at least maintain an Internet persona that eschews any reference to your private life.

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.