Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Online tax records revisited

I got this e-mail today:
Just read your blog (the note on the publishing of income tax records online in Norway) and I was wondering if you would mind lending me a hand.

I studied in Norway for less than a year, as part of a masters program. I recently googled my name, and my age and income (which was zero!) comes in in links from dn.no and skatt.na24.no. From reading your blog I gathered that this practice came to be in this decade and that it has been debated. Would you let me know if you are aware of any way to have this information become guarded from the internet? Or has it been decided that it's something that will remain public and searchable online?

I have no problem with someone from Norway accessing this information in a public database, but it strikes me as odd that anyone around the world will have this information come up readily as soon as they google my name.
Here's what I wrote about this in 2003 - jeez, has it been that long? Contrary to what I expected at the time, the practice has continued. It continues because the opposition to it is based on quaint principles like privacy, while the supporters have fun and curiosity on their side. No contest.

So my reply: Nope. Sorry. But only the latest two years are displayed, so for this student who only lived here a year they should go away eventually.



At 13 May, 2009 18:52 , Anonymous Bernt said...

It doesn't really help if only the two last years are displayed at the tax department, when all the newspapers leave the data online forever. For some years, when we had a center-right government, these records were only allowed to be made available for two weeks, but with the current labor/socialist government, they are available all year again.

I am principally against them, and despite some attempts at a grass roots campaign (www.neitilskattelister.no) the practice just don't seem to go away. It's bad enough that everything you ever said or did or was accused of online can be googled... why add more injury to privacy by publishing tax records? Compared to other privacy problems that come with the internet, this one is easily avoided.

At 13 May, 2009 19:15 , Blogger Bjørn Stærk said...

Can you actually find your old tax records? I could only find data for 2006 and 2007.

Also, there's a difference between what you can find if you enter a name into a search form, and what appears if you google someone. It may be there, but hard to find. In any case, I think it's shocking that the newspaper are allowing these data to be crawled by search engines at all.

At 13 May, 2009 20:36 , Anonymous Bernt said...

Yeah, 2000, 2001, and 2002 are also available at several newspapers. I'm sure you can figure out how to find them.

If this practice continues, you will be able to track people over quite some amount of time and get a somewhat good idea of their financial situation and how it has developed. Think excel sheets and graphs and figures.

Luckily the numbers are skewed a bit by debt and deductions. If the purpose is to avoid tax fraud then its strange that they don't post the full details (not that I want to give them any ideas).


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