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Europe approves mass data transfer to US

Data hoover helped catch suspects in Norway

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The European Parliament has passed SWIFT II - the renewed treaty giving the United States access to financial information in order to investigate terrorism.

The previous version of the treaty was rejected in February.

Changes included a promise to phase out mass transfers of data. Instead Europol will work to filter US requests to keep as much data as possible in Europe.

Europe also gets the right to send an independent inspector to check US data processing facilities. The treaty also bans data mining or automated searches of all financial transactions.

A minority opinion signed by six MEPs questioned Europol's supposed oversight role. It also complained that the data was kept for far too long and that rights of people whose data is being used were not protected.

The treaty is due to come into force 1 August and will last for five years.

The full statement is here.

In related news, Norway's arrest of two Al Qaeda suspects (a third was arrested in Germany) this week was helped by US intelligence gained from SWIFT.

Stuart Levey, under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said: "I can tell you the 'Terrorism Finance Tracking Program' (TFTP) provided support to the Norwegian investigation of that al Qaeda threat."

This despite the fact that TFTP stopped receiving data at the end of 2009, when the treaty lapsed. It continued to "generate leads" based on the data it already had, Levey told EUObserver.

Levey said changes were designed to reassure Europeans but would have no impact on the effective working of the system. ®

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