Civilisation is a movement toward privacy, an Orwellian surveillance state the opposite, and tax legislation, especially tax administration, has become the legislation and administration of surveillance and authoritarian rule.Me.
ICT Minister Amy Adams has just released a statement outlining how the government plans to "modernise" the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act 2004Under the proposed changes, network operators such as phone companies and ISPs "will be obliged [newspeak alert] to engage [newspeak alert] with the Government through the GCSB on network security, where it might affect New Zealand’s national security and economic well-being."Ms Adams says telecommunications providers are already required to have interception technology in place, to assist police and security agency investigations, under current legislation. The update was designed to make the process easier [newspeak alert].
The Internal Revenue Service is collecting a lot more than taxes this year--it's also acquiring a huge volume of personal information on taxpayers' digital activities, from eBay auctions to Facebook posts and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records, as it expands its search for tax cheats to places it's never gone before.The IRS, under heavy pressure to help Washington out of its budget quagmire by chasing down an estimated $300 billion in revenue lost to evasions and errors each year, will start using "robo-audits" of tax forms and third-party data the IRS hopes will help close this so-called "tax gap." But the agency reveals little about how it will employ its vast, new network scanning powers.Tax lawyers and watchdogs are concerned about the sweeping changes being implemented with little public discussion or clear guidelines, and Congressional staff sources say the IRS use of "big data" will be a key issue when the next IRS chief comes to the Senate for approval.
"It's well-known in the tax community, but not many people outside of it are aware of this big expansion of data and computer use," says Edward Zelinsky, a tax law expert and professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and Yale Law School. "I am sure people will be concerned about the use of personal information on databases in government, and those concerns are well-taken. It's appropriate to watch it carefully. There should be safeguards." He adds that taxpayers should know that whatever people do and say electronically can and will be used against them in IRS enforcement.Consumers are already familiar with Internet "cookies" that track their movements and send them targeted ads that follow them to different websites. The IRS has brought in private industry experts to employ similar digital tracking--but with the added advantage of access to Social Security numbers, health records, credit card transactions and many other privileged forms of information that marketers don't see."Private industry would be envious if they knew what our models are," boasted Dean Silverman, the agency's high-tech top gun who heads a group recruited from the private sector to update the IRS, in a comment reported in trade publications. The IRS did not respond to a request for an interview.
The agency declined to comment on how it will use its new technology. But agency officials have been outlining plans at industry conferences, working with IBM, EMC and other private-sector specialists. In presentations, officials have said they may use the big data for:-- Charting and analyzing social media such as Facebook-- Targeting audits by matching tax filings to social media or electronic payments-- Tracking individual Internet addresses and emailing patterns-- Sorting data in 32,000 categories of metadata and 1 million unique "attributes"-- Machine learning across "neural" networks-- Statistical and agent-based modelling-- Relationship analysis based on Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers