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« Biometrics forge ahead | Main | An unhealthy interest in databases »

Just how much is your data worth (reprise)

By Dave Birch posted Feb 25 2008 at 11:59 AM

[Dave Birch] I've uncovered some more fascinating data points in my quest to establish the value of personal data, in different circumstances, to feed into some of our risk analysis work for clients in both the private and the public sectors.

HM Revenue & Customs paid £100,000 for data that it is using to launch investigations of up to 100 British citizens who have accounts at Liechtenstein’s biggest bank... The bank informant has already provoked a storm in Germany by selling data on 750 wealthy Germans’ accounts to the country’s intelligence service for £3.2m in January last year.

[From Tax authorities pay for Britons' bank details - Times Online]

Bearing in mind the errors in my calculations last time, this time I was careful to double check. My conclusion is that details of your bank account are worth £1,000 to the tax authorities in the U.K. but £4,000 to the tax authorities in Germany. I'm not sure what to conclude from this: either Germans evade more tax, HMRC overpays for information (whether from criminals or management consultants) or the story has been made up by journalists, but nevertheless it gives another useful data point for the collection. Criminals will pay £10 for your bank account details, governments £1,000.

Actually, I thought that the story might have been made up, but today's FT is reporting the story as true., saying that

British government insiders say the list of about 100 wealthy Britons with money in Liechtenstein is a “goldmine” that has cracked open traditional banking secrecy in the Alpine state. It is expected to reap at least £100m ($197m, €133m) in unpaid taxes.

[From FT.com / World - UK turned down Liechtenstein tax list]

The enthusiastic tone might be seen by some as rather encouraging bank staff to steal the personal data of customers and sell it to a complicit fence, getting off scot-free because the purchaser of the stolen goods is none other than the government itself. After all, three million quid may be nothing to the people who run banks but keep their money offshore in tax havens, but it's quite an incentive for a deputy junior under-assistant clerk to misbehave. A familiarity with basic economics would force the conclusion that personal data held in banks is less safe this morning. A note of caution the expect tax bonanza though. The FT is also saying, with respect to the German authorities, that...

No suspected tax evader has yet been charged.

[From FT.com / World - UK turned down Liechtenstein tax list]

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto


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