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Bad move SWIFT

Stephen Beard Nov 24, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Shouldn’t have done that. A Belgian money transfer company is being criticized by the European Union for cooperating with U.S. authorities. The EU data protection panel says the company, called SWIFT, broke privacy laws in handing over financial information to the U.S. Treasury. From London, Stephen Beard has the story.

STEPHEN BEARD: SWIFT handles 11 million money transfers a day between banks around the world. In the summer it emerged the company had been secretly giving details of many transactions to the U.S.

SWIFT said it was acting under an American subpoena to help in the “War on Terror,” but the EU’s data protection panel has now ruled that SWIFT had not protected the privacy of its customers and broke the law.

Jeffrey Robinson is an expert on terror finance. He says given the scale of the data involved there is clearly an issue of civil liberties here.

JEFFREY ROBINSON: Any time a government gets involved in harvesting information about our personal lives we should all be worried, because the safeguards may be in place but there are certain administrations in Washington that completely disregard the safeguards.

SWIFT has rejected the panel’s findings, but the company could now face prosecution by the Belgian authorities.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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