Professors: IRS Using Social Media To Target Taxpayers – Is Against Federal Law

Here’s another reminder that you have to be extremely careful about what you say on social media. The IRS is watching and may be illegally using data mined from Facebook and other outlets.

From the TaxProfBlog we get this report from two professors:

This Article examines the privacy issues resulting from the IRS’s big data analytics program as well as the potential violations of federal law. Although historically, the IRS chose tax returns to audit based on internal mathematical mistakes or mismatches with third party reports (such as W-2s), the IRS is now engaging in data mining of public and commercial data pools (including social media) and creating highly detailed profiles of taxpayers upon which to run data analytics. This Article argues that current IRS practices, mostly unknown to the general public are violating fair information practices. This lack of transparency and accountability not only violates federal law regarding the government’s data collection activities and use of predictive algorithms, but may also result in discrimination.

While the potential efficiencies that big data analytics provides may appear to be a panacea for the IRS’s budget woes, unchecked, these activities are a significant threat to privacy. Other concerns regarding the IRS’s entrée into big data are raised including the potential for political targeting, data breaches, and the misuse of such information.

And also this report from the Spokesman Review:

WSU professor says IRS is breaking privacy laws by mining social media

Those Facebook posts from your vacation on a white sand beach, or that purchase of a fancy new vehicle, could be attracting views from the federal government.

As its staff shrinks, the Internal Revenue Service has turned to mining social media and large data sets in search of taxpayers to audit, a Washington State University professor says in a recent report in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law.

People should be aware “that what they say and do online” could be used against them by the IRS, said Kimberly Houser, an associate professor of business law in WSU’s Carson College of Business.

This is the type of information which could be very useful to the American people. Perhaps the media could look into it when they’re done with their latest anti-Trump outrage.

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