Feeds

US demands right to snoop the world

EU discovers backbone: Politely asks for clarification

High performance access to file storage

No sooner does the world agree to one request from US law enforcers for the right to snoop on its citizens than they are back with yet more demands. This week, however, the US may finally have pushed too far: the EU is not happy – and it is pushing back.

First up is the news that, little over a month since signing up to the Swift agreement that both enables and restricts the US’ right to collect information about bank transfers in and out of the United States, the Obama administration has unilaterally decided to tear up the agreement and claim the right to monitor any and every financial transaction, whether it can show good cause or not.

Following the events of 9/11, the Terrorism Finance Tracking Program was set up as a covert operation to tap into Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) data without the Europeans knowing about it.

When this activity became public, in 2006, the US administration agreed to negotiate with the EU, while keeping the programme up and running. According to EUobserver, the European Parliament’s in-house paper, current rules mean that US officials can request European data relevant to a specific terrorist investigation. This request needs to be approved by the EU's police cooperation unit, Europol, and to meet certain requirements, including a lower limit on transactions monitored, of $10,000.

However, the Washington Post reported this week that "transactions between European and US banks would be captured regardless of whether there is a substantiated need".

It also suggested that the Obama administration now "wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country", describing this as "a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering".

The European Commission and MEPs are reported to be "requesting clarifications" – Eurospeak for "are spitting blood" - from Washington. Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld met with EC officials behind closed doors on Monday to discuss the matter and later issued a public statement. She said: "We are all getting a bit tired of being taken by surprise all the time. The US is our friend and ally, so we shouldn't be treated this way."

On the same day, the New York Times reports details of a further encroachment on personal privacy launched this week by federal law enforcement and national security officials. They are getting ready to request sweeping new regulations for the internet, on the grounds that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is "going dark" as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

The bottom line is that these officials would like Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted email transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking websites and software that permits direct "peer to peer" messaging such as Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order.

This demand was criticised by James X Dempsey, vice president of internet policy group the Center for Democracy and Technology, an internet policy group, who accused the authorities of wanting to turn back the clock and "make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function".

These sentiments were echoed by Liberal Democrat European justice and human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford. Ludford is also vice-chair of the European Parliament's delegation to the US. She told us: "How the US chooses to snoop on people within its own borders is its own business. But there seems little point in struggling to reach transatlantic agreements on data transfer such as those on financial transactions (SWIFT/TFTP) and Passenger Name Records if the US is going to undermine them through constantly moving the goalposts.

"We need an overarching EU-US deal not only on privacy safeguards but also on the broad limits of what personal information will be sought by law enforcement agencies. Permanent mission creep is very destabilising of the trust necessary to reach long-term agreements.

"MEPs are fully supportive of necessary and proportionate efforts to catch major criminals. But the US must be stopped from trashing the international boundaries of privacy. The European Commission and EU governments must in particular make crystal clear - as they have so far failed to do - what the rules are on data-mining and profiling." ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.