The Internal Revenue Service is collecting a lot more than taxes this year--it's also acquiring a huge volume of personal information on taxpayers' digital activities, from eBay auctions to Facebook posts and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records, as it expands its search for tax cheats to places it's never gone before.
Consumers are already familiar with Internet "cookies" that track their movements and send them targeted ads that follow them to different websites. The IRS has brought in private industry experts to employ similar digital tracking--but with the added advantage of access to Social Security numbers, health records, credit card transactions and many other privileged forms of information that marketers don't see.
officials have said they may use the big data for:
-- Charting and analyzing social media such as Facebook
-- Targeting audits by matching tax filings to social media or electronic payments
-- Tracking individual Internet addresses and emailing patterns
-- Sorting data in 32,000 categories of metadata and 1 million unique "attributes"
-- Machine learning across "neural" networks
-- Statistical and agent-based modeling
-- Relationship analysis based on Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers
taxpayers should know that whatever people do and say electronically can and will be used against them in IRS enforcement