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Watchdog questions mass US data grab

Terror no excuse for huge bank data scoop

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The draft agreement on handing European citizens' bank account details to the US needs tightening up to better protect privacy, according to the European data watchdog.

The agreement was released in draft form by the European Commission last month. It now needs approval from the Council before negotiations with the US begin.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said it accepted that terrorism meant that the US had to have access to all our financial dealings via SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, based in Belgium). The agreement to give US authorities free reign came in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Peter Hustinx, supervisor of the EDPS, said: "I am fully aware that the fight against terrorism and terrorism financing may require restrictions to the right to the protection of personal data. However, in view of the intrusive nature of the draft agreement, which allows transfers of data in bulk to the US, the necessity of such scheme should first be unambiguously established."

The EDPS said bulk transfers of data should be stopped and some form of filtering at the European end introduced.

It also suggested a considerable cut in the storage time for data which is sucked up by bulk transfers but never actually investigated. It also wants assurances that European citizens will have the same rights over their information held in the US as in Europe.

It further suggested a stronger oversight and supervision mechanisms.

The full statement is here. ®

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