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Every Italian's tax bill published online

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The British government might be useless at keeping our data safe, but the outgoing Italian government has gone one better - it has published the tax details of every single Italian on a website and made them available to anyone interested.

The Italian revenue deliberately published the information in an effort to increase transparency and reduce tax evasion.

But the plug was pulled on the scheme yesterday as Italian privacy and consumer groups reacted with outrage.

The Italian tax office published names, addresses, dates of birth, declared income, and tax paid. Which sounds to us like enough information to engage in a serious bit of identity theft.

The director of the tax office, Massimo Romano, told news agency ANSA the move was "in the public interest in order to allow the free circulation of information in a framework of transparency". He also claimed the action was in line with privacy guidelines.

But the privacy watchdog was not so sure - it ordered the site closed immediately for breaking Italian privacy laws.

Beppe Grillo, an Italian comedian and politician, pointed out the information would be useful for kidnapping because ransom demands will be in line with people's incomes, and burglars will target the correct homes because they will have accurate income information. Grillo said on his blog that tax evaders have nothing to fear from the scheme.

He said: "Paying taxes like that is too dangerous. It would be better to have a conviction for tax evasion than to be knifed or kidnapped."

The decision was one of the last actions of the outgoing centre-left government led by Romano Prodi. He has been replaced by Silvio Berlusconi. ®

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