The taxman’s looking at you, kid
You’ve got to hand it to HMRC, they are keeping up with the times, and where they suspect some financial skulduggery is going on they will use all resources at their disposal. Including stalking you on the internet.
It’s true- officers in any one of HMRC’s 56 taskforces have been known to snoop through people’s Facebook accounts, Twitter feeds and even do a spot of Google Street View snooping in order to catch canny criminals. They are looking for signs that a potential fraudster’s lifestyle doesn’t fit with their declared income, so looking for Bentleys or Yachts on drives is fair game, along with investigating the private school fees you pay, as in one example quoted by accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, whose client had a poster advertising a school fete in their garden at the time the Google Vans* passed by.
A spokesman for HMRC confirmed the use of Google Street View, but played down the extent of its use: “We do use Google Street View but our investigations have a greater focus in looking at an individual’s bank account, employment history and the value of their property.”
So is this an inappropriate invasion of privacy, or is it only those with something to hide that are going to complain? And the use of publicly-available social information has been fair game for a while- insurance companies will search Facebook as a matter of course when defending personal injury claims to make sure you’ve not just posted pictures of yourself bungee-jumping, so is this any different, really?
*if this isn't already trademarked, it soon will be