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Of Earnings On-Line, Italian Politicians, and E-Mule

You may have heard that the outgoing Italian government played a little, er, joke on the Italian people. This amusing little end-of-party trick involved placing details of the declared earnings of every single Italian, who made a declaration back in 2006, on-line on a central government website for all to see.

Funny little things like the intricate and complex Italian privacy laws did not seem to deter those who made the decision to go ahead and do this. Although whosoever decided to to go ahead did so very quietly and not too many knew about it.

However, many soon found out and word spread like wildfire. All those curious to see how much celebrities and their next door neighbours earnt back in 2005 actually managed to cause the web site to fall over. Others cast doubts as to whether or not the government really had the authority to put such details online. The doubts cast raised further doubts leading to a formal complaint from the Italian Privacy watchdog and the removal of the information from the website some 24 hours after it went live.

End of story? Well, not quite. Firstly the incident has led to a real hubbub here, and secondly, an enterprising indicidual or individuals managed to ‘scrape’ all the online tax declaration information from the site while it was up and running. This means that those who are still curious simply have to search for ‘Redditi’ within the E-Mule peer to peer system, and they will find the exact same information as was available on the Italian government website – even if certain details may have been altered, so the accuracy of this secondary source could be called into question.

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Apparently the Italian government had been planning to do this for some time, but had waited until the end of the elections.

Ah, these Italian politicians, they really know how to endear themselves to the Italian people. Although, in some respects it may not be such a bad thing, in that it would be very interesting to see just how much tax all those Italians with big flash motor boats actually pay.

A sort of name and shame manoeuvre, I suppose. And potentially very embarrassing. Even if, knowing that the government can do such a thing, a few more people may be encouraged to declare a little more of their earnings.

All Italy would then need is effective and responsible politicians to spend the resulting windfall.

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