The European Union has approved proposals to allow the US to view bank transactions that occur within Europe. Privacy experts claim the move is the start of Europe outsourcing its terrorist surveillance activities to the US.
In 2006, when it was leaked that the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) was allowing US regulators to view financial payment data, public uproar followed and the story ran as front page news.
Now, in the middle of a 32 page document passed this week by ministers from all 27 European member states there is a paragraph that legally allows the US to continue monitoring Europe's financial data.
The paragraph reads: "The Council approved guidelines for negotiations with the United States for an international agreement to make financial payment messaging data available to the US Treasury Department in order to prevent terrorism and terrorist financing."
Gus Hosein, senior fellow at privacy international and visiting LSE academic, explained the move took advantage of loose protection in EU law.
By making the information available to US authorities the data could be processed in an environment with much more limited regulations when processing information on foreigners, he said.
"It's the first major case of Europe outsourcing its surveillance to the US government," said Hosein. "This was illegal two years ago and now it is perfectly acceptable," he added.
Meanwhile, the European Commission's Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Jacques Barrot also announced this week plans to make the move reciprocal so that the Europe will soon have access to US financial transaction data.
Hosein was doubtful the US would agree to the proposals but said if they were to go ahead it could possibly see the emergence of a new EU agency focused on tracking financial transactions in all EU states, holding consequences for national sovereignty over citizen data.
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