Artificial intelligence is penetrating more and more areas of human life, but not all innovations will appeal to privacy advocates, especially if the government is involved. They say the only two guarantees in life are death and taxes. This seems especially true in France, where tax authorities used Google’s AI to detect thousands of undeclared pools and issue fines of more than €10 million.
French authorities said their new system managed to identify 20,356 undeclared swimming pools scattered across the country during a limited test last year, according to a report, published by The Guardian. The tax authorities have reportedly partnered with Google and technology company Capgemini to create a system capable of identifying swimming pools across the country using aerial photographs. These images were then compared to a land cadastre database maintained by the French tax authorities, detailing the number of pools claimed.
French homeowners are required to declare swimming pools as they may affect personal property taxes. These taxes usually increase after a homeowner installs a pool, but only after the IRS becomes aware of it. According to the data by the French publication The Connexion, France has more than three million private swimming pools, making it the second largest market outside the US. In 2021, the construction of swimming pools in the country increased by 30%.
Last year’s test reportedly covered only nine tax departments. Now, having collected millions in lost tax revenue, French officials say they want to expand the program across the country. They also do not stop at swimming pools and plan to identify other undeclared additions.
This system expansion may take some time. As of April, artificial intelligence was reportedly wrong 30% of the time when identifying solar panels as swimming pools. So far, it is difficult for the system to determine whether the rectangular shape seen in the aerial photo is an unclaimed extension or something else entirely.