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SWIFT

We helped end a secret arrangement that gave the US authorities sweeping access to the vast majority of financial transfers taking place across the world.

In June 2006, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times published details of a private arrangement between the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) and the US government that gave the latter sweeping access to intelligence about the global economy under the guise of combating terrorism. SWIFT is a cooperative of around 8,000 financial institutions that handles the secure messaging at the heart of most financial transfers that take place worldwide. PI immediately launched a campaign, filing legal complaints with privacy regulators in 20 different jurisdictions alleging that the mass secret disclosure of records violated EU law. These complaints provoked a series of regulatory and legal actions, including a resolution at the European Parliament, and widespread debate in national parliaments and among industry. PI worked closely with regulators, parliamentarians, human rights groups and with SWIFT itself during this process. SWIFT ultimately agreed to move its data operations to Switzerland where US authorities have no jurisdiction.

SWIFT

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Privacy International and EPIC praised a vote today in the European Parliament today that rejected the transfer of finacial records to the United States under an interim agreement. A resolution to reject the deal passed 378-16, with 31 abstentions. Members of the parliament stated the proposed agreement lacked adequate privacy safeguards, and was a disproportionat response to US concerns about terrorism that also lacked reciprocity.

Simon Davies, Director General of Privacy International in London, said that the vote offered hope that political insitutions could respond effectively to new privacy challanges.

"It has taken several years to gather the political will to stop this massive violation of privacy in Europe. But today is a very good day, a milestone in the long history of privacy campaigning.

Mr. Davies acknowledged the leading role of European Parliament Member and rapporteur Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. In recommending that the proposal negotiated by the European Council be rejected, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert stated, "Council has not been tough enough on data protection."

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At its last session on November 21st and 22nd 2006, the Article 29 Working Party has again been dealing with the SWIFT case and has unanimously adopted Opinion 128 on its findings in this case.

In this Opinion, the Article 29 Working Party emphasizes that even in the fight against terrorism and crime fundamental rights must remain guaranteed. The Article 29 Working Party insists therefore on the respect of global data protection principles.

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Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., a prominent defence and intelligence consulting and engineering firm, has been hired as an outside "independent" auditor of the CIA and Treasury Department's Terrorist Finance Tracking Program ("TFTP"), which monitors banking transactions made through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). Though Booz Allen's role is to verify that the access to the SWIFT data is not abused, its relationship with the U.S. Government calls its objectivity significantly into question. Booz Allen is one of the largest U.S. Government contractors, with hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. Government contracts awarded each year. Booz Allen has a history of working closely with U.S. Government agencies on electronic surveillance, including the Total Information Awareness program. Among Booz Allen's senior consulting staff are several former members of the intelligence community, including a former Director of the C.I.A. and a former director of the N.S.A.

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Dear Mr Schrank,

I am writing with regard to the current controversy over the private arrangement between SWIFT and the U.S. Government that facilitates the extradition of confidential financial transaction data from SWIFT to U.S. authorities. You will be aware that Privacy International contends that this arrangement breaches privacy and data protection law, and we have lodged complaints with regulatory authorities in 38 countries.

Press release

Privacy International (PI) today filed additional complaints with authorities in Japan, Israel, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Argentina. On June 27th PI filed simultaneous complaints with Data Protection and Privacy regulators in 32 countries concerning recent revelations of secret disclosures of records from SWIFT to US intelligence agencies.(1)

The disclosures involve the mass transfer of data from SWIFT in Europe to the United States, and possibly direct access by US authorities both to data held within Belgium and data residing in SWIFT centres worldwide. Data from throughout the world is involved.

All complaints allege that the activity was undertaken without regard to legal process under privacy and Data Protection law, and that the disclosures were made without any legal basis or authority whatever. The scale of the operation, involving millions of records, places this disclosure in the realm of a fishing exercise rather than legally authorised investigations.

PI has also filed a request under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act to the Bank of England, asking for disclosure of all documents relating to dealings between the two organisations.

Press release

Following a series of formal complaints to regulators, the privacy watchdog organisation Privacy International has released its estimate of the volume of confidential UK financial data covertly transmitted to the US government.

Last week PI filed simultaneous complaints with Data Protection and Privacy regulators in 32 countries concerning recent revelations of secret disclosures of records from the banking giant SWIFT to US intelligence agencies (1).

This disclosure of data has been undertaken on the grounds of counter-terrorism though once in US territory, authorities would be at liberty to use the information in whatever way they see fit. The disclosures involve the mass transfer of data from the SWIFT centre in Belgium to the United States, and possibly direct access by US authorities both to data held within Belgium and data residing in SWIFT centres worldwide, including the UK.

Press release

The privacy watchdog organisation Privacy International has today filed simultaneous complaints with Data Protection and Privacy regulators in seventeen countries concerning recent revelations of secret disclosures of millions of records from the banking giant SWIFT to US intelligence agencies.

This disclosure of data has been undertaken on the grounds of counter-terrorism. The disclosures involve the mass transfer of data from the SWIFT centre in Belgium to the United States, and possibly direct access by US authorities both to data held within Belgium and data residing in SWIFT centres worldwide.

The complaints allege that the activity was undertaken without regard to legal process under Data Protection law, and that the disclosures were made without any legal basis or authority whatever. The scale of the operation, involving millions of records, places this disclosure in the realm of a fishing exercise rather than legally authorised investigation.

Press release

On June 22-23 2006 the New York Times ran a story uncovering an international financial surveillance programme run by the Bush Administration. In essence the Bush Administration is getting access to international transfer data and storing this in databases at the Treasury Department and/or CIA for access to investigate terrorist activity.

There are a number of inconsistencies in the accounts so far:

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