When the IRS “Likes” Your Facebook Update


On my drive back home the other day I was listening to NPR’s Marketplace.  They had a segment titled “When the IRS ‘likes’ your Facebook update.”

The segment talked about how the agency is using sophisticated algorithms to mine for data about what you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social media sites to make a determination if you fit the economic profile of a tax dodger.  The IRS calculates that each year, as a result of tax dodging, the government misses out on $300 billion in tax receipts.

As stated on Marketplace, the IRS is hiring from the private sector and gearing up its data mining capabilities using online activity trackers to enhance the already vast amounts of data the government is collecting on your social security number, your health records, your banking transactions, etc., etc., etc.

Now all those posts about your new BMW, your new business purchase, vacation, where you eat, etc., etc., etc. are all fair game to the IRS to be included in the data it already has on you.

I know that corporations have already built an economic profile of me by tracking all my web activity and spending habits and then using that information to tell me what I should buy, but that’s just an annoyance.  I can choose whether to spend my money on their product or not.  But what I have a harder time understanding is when the government collects all this information I could wrongly be profiled and incur a lot of cost proving my innocence.

I’ll leave the politics out of this, but I guess the lesson here is to never post something, no matter how innocent, that you would not want the world or the government for that matter to see or use.   And remember- we are mortal but our digital life goes on forever.