Big data key to Dutch fight against tax fraud

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The Dutch government is going to start working with a Risk Indication System (SyRI) that will make it easier for municipalities and government institutions to detect benefit or tax fraud. This technique, previously used by intelligence services, will also allow the government to predict who to keep an eye on, De Volkskrant reports. 

"The possibilities of data exchange have to be put to use optimally", Minister Asscher of Social Affairs writes. "This contributes to the base in social security and adequate counter-fraud activity."

The new System works by data mining and pattern recognition, which helps to identify suspects or suspicious behavior more easily.

This measure was decided on earlier this month in the cabinet, but was not given much attention. It is part of the expansion of the amended Detailed Organization Structure Law work and income (SUWI) which was taken on by Parliament last year. The plan received broad support in Parliament, after some written questions from opposition parties CDA and SP. Senate also supported it.

The System will lawfully process citizen information such as data about: employment, fines and sanctions, fiscal data, details about movables and immovables, trade data, housing data, identification data, civic integration data, compliance data, education data, pension data, reintegration data, tax data, debt data, benefits-, allowance-, and subsidy data, permits and exemptions, and healthcare insurance data.

Cobbling together all of this data should give the government or the institution a picture of an individual's 'risk model' that functions as a sort of filter. The system will then issue a 'risk warning' about individuals who may be engaged in fraud, by reading the data. De Volkskrant writes that the system is very similar to criminal profiling, and the suspects do land in a database.

The paper writes that there was a lot of resistance to this plan from the Personal Data Protection Agency as well as the Council of State (RvS), who argue that the plan limit personal privacy. The RvS wonders whether the government will simply go on a 'fishing expedition', angling for specific suspects by amending the filter criteria.

Minister Asscher put these worries aside, De Volkskrant writes. The appeal to allow citizens to see what happens with their data was also ignored. In a reaction, the Minister said that the law is constructed in such a manner as to prevent misuse of data.