Lithuanian authorities are using Google Maps Street View to comb through the country's larger cities for signs of residents not paying their taxes. The Associated Press reports that tax inspectors are searching Street View imagery for undocumented property and construction that might signal a tax violation. Over just a few months, the agency found a number of buildings that hadn't been registered, and managed to identify 100 homeowners and 30 construction companies as possible tax dodgers — at least one of which owes around $91,000.
The country's state tax inspectorate began using Street View after Google's service launched in the country earlier this year, reports the AP. Once a suspicious site was found, an inspector went out to physically review the location. Because the agency could selectively choose when to send out inspectors, rather than having to rely on in-person monitoring to detect these violations, it was able to more efficiently track down tax dodgers. Due to its initial success, the authority plans to look through the past two years worth of properties purchased by suspicious companies.
The tax inspectorate believes that this type of surveillance doesn't violate Lithuanian citizens' civil rights. "We conducted precise legal consultations. There are no rights violations," an agency spokesperson told the AP. A lawyer at the Human Rights Monitoring Institute in the Lithuanian capitol agrees, but he suggests that if the authorities had not also taken physical inspections, that there may have been cause for concern. He told the AP, "If they were using it as the sole tool, then it could possibly be qualified as a violation. But in this case it's just using a modern resource."