Since Facebook is already collecting personal data of everyone on the planet and their dog – why not reach for, and (ab)use this vast, comprehensive database for the sake of whatever issue of the day a government might feel it needs to advance?
That looks to be the question that France has asked – and the answer the country's president, Emmanuel Macron, has come up with and given to his government is this – go ahead and do it.
In this particular case, the issue is coming up with a legal basis that will allow France's tax and customs authorities access to that user data collected and retained by Facebook, Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – and several other online platforms, including eBay.
According to the report, Macron's government has now moved forward with a proposal that has been sent to France's parliament, which will open a debate on the draft in mid-October. If passed, this bill will allow the government to give tax and customs administrations the authority to use personal data accumulated by Facebook and others to “detect fraud.”
The time-frame to keep this data on state servers would be one month – but this will be extended for up to one year “where there is a suspicion of fraud.”
And in case French citizens thought this plan would in any way jeopardize their privacy – Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin thought he had the right arguments to assure them that it wouldn't.
“This is not about searching your personal data. This is about some people who are trying to dodge taxes,” he is quoted as saying.
But – could it be about both? Only time will tell if this rather realistic possibility, challenging the government's narrative, will ever be raised in the French parliament during the upcoming debate.
For now, what is certain is that even France's privacy watchdog feels uneasy about the proposed scheme.
“This mechanism presents very particular challenges from the point of view of freedoms, given the impact of the mechanism on privacy and its possible effects on freedom of expression online,” the organization is quoted as stating by Bloomberg.
For once, though, France is not putting itself at the very forefront of adopting controversial and potentially privacy-harming legislation. The US news agency noted that the UK is leading this particular charge – having in 2018 already embarked on collecting data from the internet for the purpose of “screening social media for tax reasons.”