Lithuanian Tax Authorities: Thanks, Google Street View

While other European countries are up in arms over what they say are Google's invasions of privacy, Lithuania is using Street View to uncover and go after citizens with unreported taxable assets, such as buildings and cars.

What's the Latest Development?

When Google drove its camera-equipped cars through the streets and roads of Lithuania last year, the Street View data they collected proved to be valuable in one unexpected way: By comparing it with existing official maps and records, tax inspectors have identified over 100 people to date who have assets, such as buildings, that went unreported. Recently, two cases in particular brought in US$130,000 in taxes and penalties because Street View revealed two buildings that didn't appear on maps. The images generated by Google Street View are much clearer than aerial photos, which authorities say weren't always useful.

What's the Big Idea?

In 2008, as a result of the global financial crisis, Lithuania's tax department budget was slashed by a third, and a quarter of its employees lost their jobs. At the same time, the government put pressure on the department to increase revenue. Google's unwitting assistance in this effort has garnered praise not just from authorities but from the populace. Those citizens helped add an extra $3.3 million to Lithuania's coffers by using a department-designed app to report instances of suspected tax evasion.

Photo Credit:

Read it at The Wall Street Journal

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less