Logo of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication
Logo of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication - 

BOB MOON: It seems the damage has already been done, but privacy advocates in Europe would still like to see some accountability. Today the global money transfer company SWIFT rejected the charge it broke the law by handing confidential data to the U.S. government. Europe's data protection watchdog has accused the company of violating Europe's privacy legislation. From London Stephen Beard reports:

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: Anytime 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.