Data chief challenges US access to European Bank data

Europe’s head of data protection has challenged the European Central Bank on its practice of allowing the US secret service access to private bank-transfer data.

Europe’s head of data protection has challenged the European Central Bank on its practice of allowing the US secret service access to private bank-transfer data.

The European Data Protection Supervisor, Peter Hustinx, has presented some preliminary observations on the study “The Interception of Bank Transfer Data from the Swift System by the US Secret Services”.

"We have not concluded our investigation on ECB's role yet, but there are already some observations that I can share publicly,” he said.

“I basically challenge the fact that the ECB continued to allow confidential client banking data to pass to the US, although it had become aware of the systematic access by American authorities. Moreover, I cannot help feeling that the ECB should have at least felt morally obliged to inform European governments and authorities about this scheme." 

Swift, the Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunication, is based in Brussels and links about 7,800 financial institutions around the world, including almost every major bank and brokerage.

Serious questions have arisen on the routine sharing of financial data by Swift with a complete ‘mirror system’ in the US, allowing access to European banking data, Hustinx said. "These questions need further analysis and reflection on compatibility with European data protection law and on different issues of responsibility," he said.

He confirmed European data law applies to Swift transactions and said the ECB should have notified European authorities and governments of US security agencies' arrangements with Swift.

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