Italy puts entire population's earnings on internet

The outgoing Italian government posted the entire population's tax returns on the internet, causing a mad scramble which crashed the system.

The move allowed consultation of everyone’s finances, including those of politicians, soccer players and TV personalities.

The country’s privacy watchdog quickly stepped in however to block the frenzied clicking of thousands of Italians who clogged the tax agency’s website to check out the wealth of their neighbours, friends and bosses.

The tax agency listed the returns for 2005, including total income, how much tax was paid and other personal information.

The watchdog ordered the agency to suspend the consultation within a few hours yesterday, amid protests over invasion of privacy.

Vincenzo Visco, a deputy economy minister in Premier Romano Prodi’s outgoing government, had authorised the move and has defended his decision saying that it was a “simple matter of transparency and democracy”.

It came just days before the administration hands over to the new government of Silvio Berlusconi.

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