We noted in March that all U.S. intelligence agencies – including the CIA and NSA – are going to spy on Americans’ finances.
The IRS is joining the fun.
U.S. News and World Report notes today:
Starting this year, the IRS tools will be able to track all credit card transactions, for starters. The agency has also instructed agents on using online sources such as social media and e-commerce sites including eBay, as well as the rich data generated by mobile devices. In one controversial disclosure in April, the ACLU showed documents in which the IRS general counsel said the agency could look at emails without warrants, but the IRS has said it will not use this power.
While the agency has declined to give details about what third-party personal data it will use in robo-audits and data mining, it has told government and industry groups that its computers are capable of scanning multiple networks at the same time to collect “matching” comprehensive profiles for every taxpayer in America. Such profiles will likely include shopping records, travel, social interactions and information not available to the public, such as health records and files from other government investigators, according to IRS documents.
The IRS is following the philosophy of former Obama regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein [remember him?], who advocates using technology tools and behavioral science policies to “nudge” people to do the right thing. In the case of the IRS, that policy so far has fallen most heavily on lower-income taxpayers and has done little to collect substantially more tax revenue.
Harry Surden, a University of Colorado—Boulder Law School associate professor and former fellow at Stanford’s Center for Computers and Law, who has done in-depth studies on the use of technology by government … has found that data mining and new technology make possible a level of government intrusion into personal lives that few realize is possible.