back to article MEPs to US: Hands off our bank accounts

The European Parliament has rejected a proposed interim agreement on SWIFT - under which the US gets access to European bank transactions. The wholesale export of all our bank statements began after 2001 in the name of the war on terror. The Parliament rejected the agreement by 378 votes to 196 with 31 abstentions. A proposal …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    At least someone is protecting our rights

    Down with Westminster, long live Strasbourg!

    1. John 98

      Yea and Amen

      Unfortunately Westminster has completely failed to stand up to a governments, British and American on our behalf. Too busy claiming expenses, I suppose

      Do the Yanks make their citizens data available to us? just a question

      1. Mike 102

        No they don't

        That was probably the worst part of the whole affair. It's one way, they get our data (and can use it for all sorts of things not just looking for terrorists) and we don't get theirs... crazy.. nearly as crazy as the one way extradition agreement where they can extradite people from the uk and we can't get at theirs... our government is great...

  2. Number6

    Wow!

    Well done MEPs, nice to see a bit of backbone showing.

    Now we get to watch Brown agree to let UK banks give their data to the US despite the EU DP laws.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Hooray

    Not so much America....Fuck Yeah

    But America....Fuck You

  4. heyrick Silver badge

    Uhh... Explain how full bank account information helps...

    ...*THEM* to catch "terrorists" (scare quotes intentional) given their apparent lack of consideration for foreign governments who provide intel.

    Additionally, given numerous modern terrorist groups were US funded in the past (i.e. Taliban), it makes sense that such sharing - if it is to continue - should absolutely be bi-directional with no strings.

    IT angle? We can see from where Google gets its data privacy attitude...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      ...easy peasy, tax evasion.

      *THEY* want to catch "tax evaders" and "tax avoiders" too, or maybe more than "terrorists". You know US citizens are subject to tax on total worldwide income? Even if they are expatriates who are non-resident in USA.

      Also people who deal with US can be liable for US tax, say for example you buy US shares or do some freelance work for an American company -- hands up if you have the IRS as well as HMRC to deal with. :'(

      This is only going to get worse. The OECD has a goal of sharing global tax information, historically the USA has predictably been against this (information flow, only works one way doesn't it?) but the Obama administration may actually sign them up to this too.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About time

    Maybe our government should start asking for the bank account details of americans that supported the IRA under the guise of looking for terrorists, see how fast it ends up in an american court as infringment on their privacy......

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    War on terrorism?

    What war on terrorism - the US still allow their citizens to donate money to blow up police in NI and let convicted IRA killers walk their streets while refusing to sign their side of the agreement that lets them pluck autistic hackers over for up to 35 years in jail for the crime of 'showing us up'

    There is no war on terrorism - its just a game to see how low our government will bend over .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      Real life examples

      At a breakfast team-meeting in New York (after 9/11 but before 7/7) my American colleagues were talking about "terrorists" and exclaiming that no-one else knew what it was like to have attacks on their city. I pointed out that my city, London, had had many terrorists attacks over the years, to be met with blank expressions. "You know, the IRA" says I, without blinking the guy sat next to me said "The IRA aren't terrorists, they're freedom fighters" and then him and his boss proceeded to tell us how they were of Irish descent (one had a single grandparent from Ireland, the other a great-grandparent) and how they went to Irish pubs and gave money to IRA supporters. I was gob-smacked.

      One of my Irish friends hates going to New York, he keeps being called a "traitor" by 'Irish Americans' because he's not an IRA supporter. They talk about "the old country", so he asks "Have you every been to Ireland? Have your parents ever been to Ireland?" and in many cases "Have your grandparents ever been to Ireland" only to be answered with negatives; but they berate him because him and his kind (regular Irish citizens) are "traitors to the cause" whereas they who might have a distant relative who once came from Ireland are not.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privacy

    So much for privacy! the US has access to my bank account details? what next? credit card details, Biometric data? the 'national identity database? where does it end? I agree with anon above.... hmmm....

    Reminds me of a quote I heard recently:

    To him that you tell your secret you resign your liberty.

    Good for the EU....lets hope the UK stands up for our rights!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Troll

      You're our only hope...

      ... geordie broon.

    2. Alan Firminger

      Surely

      they have your Barclaycard statement whenever you fly there.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    get the facts straight

    its not all bank statements for goodness sakes, please at least read the relevant documents before spreading misinformation. It is only the data arising out of international bank transfers using the swift system.

    Details of the £10k I transfered to Pakistan is included, but my domestic bank transactions are not under the SWIFT system as they never see them, only the international transfers.

  9. spodula
    Thumb Up

    The IRA?

    Down with Westminster, long live Strasbourg!

    Hmm, Wonder if this is some form of underhanded method of making the EU parlement more palatable to UK voters by getting them to reverse the stupid decisions B-Liar and Brown has made. (Not that i expect the Conservatives would have resisted bending over and taking one for the US either)

    Technically the IRA should never have been funded from the US, as its totally against US law, however, these laws only seemed to get enforced properly after 9/11. I suspect one of the reasons that the Peace process never totally broke down is because both sides knew they would struggle to get any more money out of the US, and that in any contest of Harsh language, the Paisley family got Gerry Addams beat into a cocked hat.

    The Splinter groups dont seem to have been able to keep up anything like the levels of anarchy the IRA and the loyalists used to.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Not needed when the IRA were blowing stuff up in the UK

    But blow some stuff up in the *US* and watch the collective US under garments fill up.

    The first act of the European Parliment having some control over foreign policy seems like quite a good one to me. Let's hope its future ones are as good.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      ...can you prove

      this negative ?

    2. Mark Boylen

      Re: get the facts straight

      If this hadn't been challenged, how long before domestic transactions would have been requested under the guise of looking for terrorists.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SWIFT

      "Details of the £10k I transfered to Pakistan is included, but my domestic bank transactions are not under the SWIFT system as they never see them, only the international transfers."

      No, domestic transfers via SWIFT are also included, internal EU transfers via SWIFT. Internal transfers in the EEA zone.

      Not only that, but all payments made by EU companies to non EU suppliers, are handed the USA. So the price an EU country pays for goods from China is documented to the USA.

      Since the cost of a terrorist attack is pocket change, there could never be a justification for this. The cost of a tube ticket and a bag of fertlizer never had to be sent by SWIFT, it could be carried in small cash.

      And of course if Gordon the gopher is in favour of this, then he's likely let them have BACS data too, so your domestic transactions are likely sent to the US too. This is legal (and can be done secretly) under their new laws.

      If you booked a hotel on holiday and sent them a payment, that is listed. Banks like Citibank gave themselves the right to hand your private data over after SWIFT was caught, and Gordon didn't bat an eyelid:

      http://www.citibank.co.uk/personal/banking/info/termsandconditions/general.htm?merchant=citi

      "29. How we use your personal information and who we share it with...We may transfer your information to...to regulators, authorities and law enforcement agencies in other countries (including countries outside the European Economic Area having less stringent data protection requirements than those within it) if the disclosure is required by the laws or regulatory rules of those countries."

      That's coded legal language for "you give up your EU data protection right". Since your UK transactions are none of the US's business, just because you bank with Citibank, yet Citibanks terms of service say otherwise.

      So it's easy to pretend that only terrorists funded from Pakistan are included, but that's not the reality.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        repply to anon @1657

        yes true all SWIFT transactions are covered by this but only SWIFT transactions, the article suggests your bank statements are passed using this method. They are not. I have never come across domestic swift transactions but I accept that these are potentially covered too.

        The statements info might be transfered by other means but not this one. As for the Citibank terms and conditions they are a joke and anyone who agrees to them should really think again. Not all banks do this and even if they were it is very unlikely the terms would really supply the 'informed consent' they seek to obtain by putting it in the TandC so the information commissioner may still have something to say about it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's why...

        You don't do your daily banking with a US bank. :-)

        Besides, since some of them do exactly what Lehman Bros did (using the money in the UK account after hours for US business), I wouldn't want them to have my money.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Citibank's Terms and Conditions

        the t&c's you quote violate uk and eu data protection law. these say quite clearly that personal data cannot be exported to a country that does not have data protection laws that are at least as good as those in the uk/eu. if that country doesn't have suitable laws the data can be exported provided the recipient is bound by a contract that obliges them to follow eu/uk data protection law.

        citibank are taking the piss. you should make a complaint to the information commissioner. and take your business elswhere.

        paris icon because she knows a thing or two about the eu's model clauses even though she think's they're about what happens at fashion shows instead of data protection.

    4. Rod MacLean

      RE: get the facts straight

      If you work outside the UK but have a UK bank account then they can look at them.

      Hell, if you work just across the border in some other country (ie live in France, work in Luxembourg) then they can look at them too.

      I'm not saying that's a good thing, far from it but we don't get to see theirs do we?

    5. Mike 102

      don't think so...

      much more than just international transfers go through swift...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    winrar

    Dear MEPs,

    Thank you kindly for showing some backbone and doing the right thing.

    Sincerely,

    The People of Europe.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    the most intersting thing in the story, for me was

    "Earlier this week the US was threatening to make data sharing agreements with individual countries if the EC failed to reach agreement. The difficulty for the US is that individual nations remain bound by EC data protection regulations."

    i.e. when Europe was a collection of miscellaneous countries the US could individually bully them around. But now they've clubbed together into a more organised (dare I say "federal") entity, they can stand up for themselves.

    This is why Uncle Sam is so opposed to a Pan-African union, and to the South American countries banding together.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      The pan-Africa and pan-SA unions are

      not the only unions the merkins are against - they have made it publicly clear they are against a federated European Union, which makes me want it even more!

      As someone else above said, the EU is painted in a bad light in the UK but if it wasn't for them, working regulations would be much poorer in the UK (20 days holiday per year anyone?)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        ...I must admit

        I *like* it when the US runs scared of a more integrated Europe.

        Of course a more integrated Europe can out bargain and out buy the US as well.

    2. Mark 65

      Yep

      I liked that statement. They really don't seem to know or understand how the system works do they?

  13. kissingthecarpet
    Thumb Up

    Never understood

    why the working class in particular have such a down on the EC when its probably the only thing standing between them & a police state. I mean, joking about France & Germany & their roles in various wars is all very jolly, but don't take it seriously you mugs, that's just what the Murdochs & Camerons of the world have told you to do.

    (OT PS Stop "reading" the Sun as well you gimps)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      @kissingthecarpet

      Shush you. Your sort will be burnt at the stake after The People's Dave and his lovely wife Rupert Murdoch get in, and not a moment too soon!

    2. g e

      One vote for...

      "Sun reader" as oxymoron of the day

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Gimps and mugs

      I think the word you're looking for is "Britards": people who think The Sun is a newspaper and that Murdoch's flavour of the month offers anything more than they did last time they were in power.

  14. Alan Esworthy
    Thumb Up

    Very good!

    Very good, and I say this as an American. Anything that reduces by even a little the flow of what ought to be private information into the insatiable maw of the US government's "intelligence" monster is excellent news.

  15. Terry H
    Thumb Up

    Well Done EC!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    NFT

    (well maybe some)

    P.S.

    Well Fucking DONE!

  16. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Well done the European Parliament

    Lest we forget, the only elected EU body

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    easy dirt on most MP's

    My understanding is that, given the colourful character of the majority of MP's, there will inevitably be some financial transaction or other that they would prefer to keep quiet about.

    We've all seen it - expenses, soft loans, donations etc.

    If they ever become a problem to the USA's aims and <ahem> aspirations, its not difficult to get them back into line with a little tap on the shoulder and a dark secret.

  18. Richard IV

    Question

    So is this the first time that the Council of Ministers doesn't get to overrule the European Parliament like what they normally do whenever MEPs make anything approaching a sensible decision?

    If so, then hoorah! It's always amused me in the horrified onlooker who can't do anything about it sense of the word that the least democratic wings of the EU have veto power over the democratic bit, and it's the democratic side that gets all the criticism aimed at it.

  19. Dazed and Confused

    ? Post 911

    Even post 911 I've heard senior US politicians arguing that there are major differences between the Irish who they classify as "Freedom Fighters" and Arabs who don't vote for them and are therefore terrorists. Even post 911 there is still a faction within the US who feel that fighting the British is OK as long as you don't fight Uncle Sam.

  20. Nigel 11
    Black Helicopters

    What about businesses?

    There might be quite a lot of industrial espionage value in knowing all of a business's international payments. I wonder how many USA businesses are gaining a commercial advantage courtesy of whispers from the USA government's access to this bank transfer information?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A possible Fix

    1. Ban SWIFT from internal EU transfers, SEPA will soon cover other currencies other than the EURO anyway. They can all go via SEPA, so UK, and all EEA zone countries can soon get their EU data protection rights via SEPA too.

    2. Create a SEPA to SWIFT bridge, and charge a fee, e.g. 30 euros. Non EU countries need to send via the bridge if they want to sent via SWIFT.

    3. Sign agreements with third countries to directly use SEPA, so they no longer need the bridge.

    USA will talk a lot of terrorist crap, but that's just because a EURO world currency is such a threat to US$. But with the Arabs creating their own currency for oil trading, US$ has no future anyway. Better that Euro dominates than we mince around in some sort of 'be nice to Obama' fudge.

  22. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Finally

    Now if we could only have someone in the U.S. slap our nosy uncle back into his rightful place. It's good to see our local "sobriety" checkpoints won't be doing the international banking circuit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SWIFT in the EU

      SWIFT in the EU is only used when an IBAN is not available. All Euro-denominated transfers are handled via a system that does not operate through SWIFT.

      :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Not news

      The US is reasonably open that they pass commercially sensitive info to US corporations for financial gain, to be fair to them. Their espionage benefits people like Boeing quite a lot.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      <untitled>

      ...better that the Euro dominates than we lose out yet again as the dollar goes even further down the toilet...

  23. Eduard Coli
    Grenade

    Helping hands

    Nice to see the rich in Europe helping the rich in the US hide the swag.

    Good to see all of that bonus money going to good use.

    Funny that Switzerland was mentioned as they must have been losing the swag laundering/hiding business to the Philippines, Macau, etc.

  24. jason 45
    Big Brother

    I say...

    ...you are ALL terrorists in here!

    We should give bank details and should also bend over for our protectors (and saviors in all Hollywood films) the Americans!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J0ikG4XpTs

  25. AM in Brussels
    Thumb Up

    thanks to the Lisbon treaty

    MEPs having the power to do this is because of the Treaty of Lisbon coming into force a few months ago.

    So it's not all bad then, is it?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting turn of events..

    Interesting, has anyone realised that AFAIK, by placing the servers in Switzerland they are actually NOT under EU law, but under both Swiss data protection and bank secrecy?

    Could get interesting, it's not like the Swiss like the US very much now..

  27. Timothy Creswick
    Big Brother

    Missing the point

    I think the point here is being missed. The reason that the US was able to "snoop" on SWIFT data since 2001 was due to the Patriot Act.

    The point is that SWIFT has been mirroring all their data between it's site in Belgium and in the US. Once those data are on US soil, they are subject to the Patriot act, regardless of the nature of the underlying financial transaction they represent.

    Same applies to Gmail, Google Apps, Salesforce etc etc. Once your data is on US soil, it's privacy is questionable since the Patriot Act [probably] supercedes even the Safe Harbor (sic) protocols.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    A400M, Eurofighter, EuroLeopard

    Do we now get more sympathy for European technology projects instead of the "American stuff is soooo much better" blurb ?

    What we need is a European General Staff and a rationalization of European Foreign Policy and Defence. Then we neither have to fear the Russian Bear or the American Bully. Actually, the EU is the No 1 economic power nowadays, if we only acted as a single entity.

    We could actually bully around the Russians, think about that.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    irony

    the ironic thing is that the US gov is the main benefactor of 'terrorism', by arming/funding groups which then turn on them and bite the hand that fed them.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hi this the 4th Reich calling the 3.5th Reich

    you're black.

    Yeah, yeah Lisbon treaty double edged sword isn't, we are all going to get screwed but at least you can select your brand of lube.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    How many will get to know this?

    I wonder how many ordinary people in the streets will know this? Will this be mentioned on the BBC, or the newspapers? They have spent ages going on about how Europe = bad. Now, many people in the UK are brainwashed into accepting everything that Murdoch and his cronies say.

    We need to get the whole of the UK to know why we need Europe. Let them know the BNP and its ilk are there to destroy life for the UK.

  32. Sillyfellow
    FAIL

    who's finances?

    yep. the good ol usa (and other countries), are so interested in our finances, when they themselves have somehow lost billions, and cannot account for where the money went. they say they just don't know. blah de blah.

    i believe they should get their own house in order before looking at our personal finances.

    besides, they apparently had no interest whatsoever in 'following the money' when it came to 9/11 and other such attacks. why not? instead they're only interested in knowing absolutly everything about you, so that they can monitor and control you.

    this whole hoo haa has nothing to do with security, unless of course that's defined as total control.

  33. Equitas

    Americans

    But the more data they have, the less chance there is of their being able to do anything meaningful with it. The chances of Americans being able to harvest and utilise any significant amount of useful information are vanishingly small.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    As it were

    I believe the US gubmint used to required banks to reports all transactions over 10k$, but i think that was lowered to 5k$ when they thought about it. It frankly wouldn't surprise me at all to find the NSA hoovering up all bank transactions in the US of merkins.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Commercial Espionage ?

    If I knew all the financial transactions of BP with their partners around the globe I can easily guess their strengths and weaknesses. Exxon will love that INTELLIGENCE.

    If I knew all the financial transactions of AIrbus they have to make to pay their suppliers, I can easily guess the economics of their manufacturing operation. Also, I know how many aircraft they currently assemble or have assembled the last few weeks. Boeing will truely love this INTELLIGENCE.

    Exactly the same can be said about Siemens and General Electric.

    Or Bosch and Delphi.

    Or ARM and Intel.

    Or SAP and Oracle.

    Did the Americans promise to hand their banking transactions to us ? I have some serious doubts about that.

  36. heyrick Silver badge

    Redaction

    Its a shame we (as in the EU) can't invoke some obscure bit of beaurocracy so that we can happily comply with the American requests, while having the ability to redact everything.

    SWIFT TRANSFERS - JAN 2010 A/C XXXXXXXXXXXXX-XXXX

    XXX Jan 10 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in favour of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX for the sum of XXXXXXXXXX

    XXX Jan 10 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in favour of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX for the sum of XXXXXXXXXX

    XXX Jan 10 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in favour of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX for the sum of XXXXXXXXXX

    XXX Jan 10 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX in favour of XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX for the sum of XXXXXXXXXX

    :-)

    [actually I'd be surprised if businesses couldn't claim "trade secrets" on this sort of information]

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