The tax authorities kept messages from citizens on social networks to a large extent

The tax authorities kept messages from citizens on social networks to a large extent

For many years, the tax authorities kept secret the personal data of taxpayers collected over the Internet to a large extent, including their messages on social networks. The data was used for monitoring and combating fraud, despite internal doubts about the validity and accuracy of the data.

A controversial database called the Risk Analysis Model (RAM) was filled with data about people collected over the internet, while within the tax authorities it was clear that in some cases this was a breach of privacy law. That reports the NRC according to an internal report from the tax authority from 2017. The report has now been sent to the House of Representatives by outgoing Secretary of State Marnix van Rij.

Hundreds of different data for each citizen

The data in the RAM came from many sources, including from outside the government. ‘Hundreds of different data’ were stored for each citizen. According to an internal report, it was possible to ‘associate almost anything with everything’. RAM has been used for listing since 2000, including on the basis of nationality.

Around 2016, at least two thousand civil servants could access RAM data, including Customs and FIOD. Employees can transfer information without verification. RAM was also used in the Benefit department, which Van Rij previously denied to the House of Representatives. He’s coming back to it now.

It is not allowed in some cases

The tax authorities knew that the automatic storage (scraping) of data that citizens had put on the Internet was legally controversial. “The legal basis for the processing of such data (…) is at least under discussion and in a number of cases it is not allowed,” the internal analysis reads. After the introduction of the strict GDPR privacy law in 2018, the system was officially shut down, although part of it remained available until January 2021.

Van Rij and his fellow State Secretary Aukje de Vries are now conducting an external investigation of RAM and the consequences for citizens, as well as the system’s possible role in the Profit Scam.