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France Wants to Harvest Facebook Data to Catch Tax Fraudsters

Helene Fouquet

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to give tax authorities the power to harvest data from Facebook, Instagram and other social media to help detect fraud.

The government wants parliament to include an article in the 2020 budget law granting the new powers to officials from the tax and customs administrations. The state will also screen online market places like EBay Inc., Vinted, or Le Bon Coin as part of a trial program that is slated to run for three years.

“This is not about searching your personal data,” Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin said on LCI television Wednesday. “This is about some people who are trying to dodge taxes.”

He said the government was ready to see the article amended by lawmakers but he hopes it will be maintained.

Macron’s administration is pushing ahead with the plan despite the objections of the national privacy regulator. The Paris-based organization said on Sept. 30 that the plan marks a step change in the government’s use of personal data.

“This mechanism presents very particular challenges from the point of view of freedoms, given the impact of the mechanism on privacy and its possible effects on freedom of expression online,” it said.

France is not the first country to screen social media for tax reasons. In 2018, the U.K. authorities started to gather internet data for the same purposes.

Under the French plan, data will initially remain on state servers for 30 days and will be retained for up to a year where there is a suspicion of fraud, the government said Tuesday.

France’s National Assembly will start reviewing the budget law on Oct. 14.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Geraldine Amiel

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