Tax office scraped social media for database info: NRC

Photo: Joep Poulssen

The tax office has been gathering a vast range of personal information about taxpayers, including their social media messaging, despite concerns about the legality of the process, the NRC said on Thursday.

The information is stored in the department’s controversial RAM database, which the NRC exposed earlier this year. The system was used until recently to make profiles of potential fraudsters, in which nationality, family relationships, property ownership and debts also play a role. 

Built by the tax office itself, the system was used to identify addresses considered worthy of further investigation because of unusual behavioural patterns or a large number of registered residents. As yet it is unclear who had access to the information, but according to the NRC, at least 2,000 people may have done so.

However an internal analysis makes it clear that the tax office was aware that scraping the internet for information about people was “legally problematic” and often contravened privacy laws, the paper said. 

Use of the system ended in May 2018 but part of the database was open until at least January 2021. The government has since commissioned an independent report into the use of the database, including its possible use during the childcare benefit scandal. 

In 2022 the Dutch government acknowledged for the first time that institutional racism was a factor in the tax office’s treatment of ethnic minorities that led to excesses such as the childcare benefits scandal.

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