The Dutch are to target welfare cheats using the Social Network.
Apparently they are using software previously used by the US in combating terrorism, which trawls the internet searching for key words or phrases such as ‘holiday’ or ‘new cars’, and then checking these sites’ details against those claiming benefits. Among others they have already managed to catch a supposedly unemployed artist whose daughter’s Facebook page announced that they were off to France on holiday where, to make matters worse, the artist was selling his paintings and pocketing the money.
Their software nearly exploded when they read this post by Johan Nijx, a blogger who posts under the name of Nixer:
Last night I left Chateau Nixer to go to a Benefit gig for the unemployed. This was in a pretty rough part of Amsterdam, so I made sure to hide my money as I walked to the venue (this experience was new, my car has broken down).
The gig itself was not a great success. First up they had a guy with a fiddle who played the songs of Billie Holiday (Tinman’s Note: I know that’s not how her name is spelled, Spellcheck altered the spelling for him, with unfortunate consequences). Then we had a girl doing whiny, semi-country-music songs, clearly aiming at the Mary Black market. Finally we had a so-called rocker in an all-black outfit (one of those Johnny Cash jobs) doing UB40 songs.
They had promised us food, but in fact all they did was dole out cocktail sausages, which I have to say didn’t float my boat. Indeed the crowd were so incensed that many of the sausages were simply thrown at the stage, which had to get a good sponging. Then the sound failed, provoking the crowd to stop abusing the singers and start to abuse the system instead.
I had to walk home afterwards but I was not taxed by this, though I did arrive home so late that Mrs Nix had been concerned for my welfare.
Upon investigation Johan was found to have committed no fraud, of course, though he did have to pay a fine after the official who called to his house noticed that he was not growing tulips in his garden, which is apparently compulsory in Amsterdam.
However, it is a salutary tale for the rest of us. If the super-tolerant Dutch can do this, who knows what your own government is doing. Be careful what you post, be careful how much you reveal, be careful even of what tags you use.