The constitutional court of France recently ruled that the French government can now review users' profiles, posts and pictures for evidence of undisclosed income. According to reports, the new rules are a part of a border law on tax changes passed a week ago. The French parliament, however, is yet to debate the proposal for a three-year trial during which the tax office's computer system is expected to collect information on peoples' lifestyles from social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and also monitor their activity on sites such as eBay and the French site Le Bon Coin.
The human rights groups and the French data protection authority have also raised concern over the moves. The court also acknowledged that users' privacy and freedom of expression could be compromised, but its applied caveats to the legislation. According to international media reports, the authorities would also have to ensure that password-protected content was off-limits and that they would only be able to use public information pertaining to the person divulging it online. Further, the court reportedly said that the regulators should closely monitor how the information was being exploited.
La Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), the data watchdog has further given a written advice that the government has to show a great deal of 'prudence' over the plan as it could amount to the mass collection of data on a 'significant scale', with information being automatically mined rather than gathered for specific, suspicious cases. CNIL also said that a massive collection of data could 'significantly change individuals’ behaviour online, where they might not feel able to express themselves freely on the platforms in question'. They also recognised that the government's aims were legitimate but the new policy would pose risks for individual freedoms.
Budget Minister Gérald Darmanin while speaking to an international media outlet said that the new rules are 'one more tool to fight fraud'. He further added that if one is not a fiscal resident in France and they still keep posting pictures on Instagram from France, there might be an issue. This article was also amended on October 2 this year, to remove an incorrect reference to HMRC's computer system.