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India Is Going to Search Instagram and Facebook to Find Tax Fraudsters

Photo-Illustration: Getty Images

In the latest bid to use big data to change the world, the Indian government is reportedly compiling a large database of social-media posts to better determine whether people are paying their taxes in full. That means, if you like posting photos of luxury cars and fabulous vacation getaways on Instagram, you’ll need to be more careful about what tax inspectors find.

According to Bloomberg, the Indian government has spent $156 million over the last seven years building “Project Insight,” an enormous database of biometric data, as it overhauls its tax system.

Starting next month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will begin amassing a warehouse of virtual information collected not just from traditional sources like banks but also from social media sites, as it looks to match residents’ spending patterns with income declarations, said people familiar with the matter. Officials will be able to spot those who pay too little tax without raiding offices and homes as they currently do, the people said, asking not to be identified citing rules on speaking with the media.

The first phase of the long-term project is getting citizens to comply with the database, migrating “credit card spends, property and stock investments, cash purchases and deposits” over to the system. Starting in December, reportedly, an analytics team will begin mining the data for tax forecasting. In the meantime, unless you feel like attracting unwanted attention, maybe don’t tweet that photo of your 18-course meal.

India Is Going to Search Instagram to Find Tax Fraudsters