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Is the Commission’s report on Swift agreement biased?

16 January, 2013

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: SWIFT: Ist der Bericht der Kommission inkorrekt?

The very controversial TFTF (Terrorist financing tracking programme or Swift Agreement) through which the European and US law enforcement authorities are exchanging financial personal information of suspected terrorists, is covered by two review boards (one American and another one from EU) to ensure that the information is secured and properly handled.

The Commission’s report on the second joint review of the implementation of the Swift Agreement issued on 18 December 2012, was largely favourable to the implementation of the agreement: “As illustrated by the report (and the detailed information contained in its annexes), this review confirmed the clear value added of this instrument in fighting against and preventing terrorism. This – very sensitive – programme continues to be well protected and is scrupulously managed in accordance with a set of effective safeguards. (...) Overall the implementation of the agreement more than two years after the entry into force of the Agreement has reached a very satisfactory level of effective implementation with also the EU increasingly profiting from it under the specific reciprocity arrangements”

The report has also pointed out some recommendations among which that the US Treasury specifies more in detail to the Commission how the on-going evaluation process is carried out in practice, and that the practice of deletion of data is continuously monitored. It also recommends that US Treasury respects any technical modalities and security arrangements agreed for the transfer of information, “including seeking prior consent from the data owner before disseminating such information”. The report asks for future consultation and coordination between JSB, Europol and the Commission on the planning, timing and focus of possible inspections “in order to avoid overlapping activities and misleading public statements.”

But Reinhard Priebe, Director for Internal Security at the Commission’s directorate for home affairs, who chairs the EU review team, stated that there might be a conflict of interests in the European review board, as the board includes two data protection experts who are on a joint-supervisory body (JSB) linked to Europol.

The JSB report, which details how the terrorist-fighting authorities share the personal data, is now kept secret, as JSB conclusions were apparently incorrect in the Commission’s view considered Dutch MEP Sophie in't Veld. She also stated that she had no idea whether the agreements regarding the safeguards for the proper application of agreements were used or not.

The reality is that there is a huge unnecessary amount of data sent, on a daily basis, within the agreement. "The essential problem of the Agreement remains unresolved: The report gives no indication of the extent and scope of the data" as underlines The German Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar.

By 1 August 2013, the Commission and the US Treasury are to prepare a joint report regarding the value of TFTP data. The next Joint Review, according to Article 13 of the Agreement, will be carried out in 2014.

Terrorist data oversight tainted by potential conflict of interest (20.12.2012)

Commission Staff Working Document - Report on the second joint review of the implementation of the Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging data from the European Union to the United States for the purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (14.12.2012)

Monitoring report of the EU Commission: the case of financial data delivery in the U.S. is that neither requests nor deletion are traceable (only in German, 19.12.2012)



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