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EU About To Grant US Unlimited Access To Banking Data 277

Posted by kdawson
from the not-too-swift dept.
An anonymous reader points out a blog post reporting that on Monday The EU Council is set to give US intelligence services full access to SWIFT banking data, despite a unanimous call by the European Parliament not to do so. "The move of SWIFT the data server to Switzerland would be an excellent opportunity to stop the nearly unlimited access of US authorities on EU bank transactions. But EU justice and interior ministers are apparently keen [on agreeing to] a deal as soon as possible, on 30 November. Why 30 November? Because one day later, on 1 December 2009, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty will be in force and would allow the European Parliament to play a major role in the negotiations of the deal with the US. A deal one day before will be a slap in the face to democracy in the EU. ... [W]hile the US will be able to access EU banking data, no access to US banking data by EU [authorities] is being foreseen."
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EU About To Grant US Unlimited Access To Banking Data

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:37PM (#30246384) Journal
    Wired money to Turkey? Terrorist.

    Unexplainable transfers of cash into your account from $MUSLIM_STATE? Terrorist operative.

    Bought floor tile from a man with the same surname as a well-known Taliban leader? Suspected terrorist.

    etc.

    I mean, I'm all for national security and sharing information but what is so lacking about the EU's ability to make and investigate the above claims?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      what is so lacking about the EU's ability to make and investigate the above claims?

      The EU lacks the information. It is not allowed to spy on its own citizens (sound familiar?). How do you get information about your own citizens in spite of privacy protection laws? You let someone else do the dirty work, deflect all the blame and get the analyzed data back. Who cares that the structure and dynamics of the entire EU economy are presented to a foreign country as a "side effect"?

    • What is so lacking? Spine AKA 'political will'. Muslim minorities are much larger and growing much faster in Europe than the US, and Europeans are afraid to poke much at them even legitimately or else be labelled 'reactionary bigots' or worse 'American lapdogs' not only by the muslims but also other Europeans who are too progressive to care about people bombing trains.

      On the one had, you are completely right, a lot of wholly innocent people are going to be put through a wringer because they did something
  • It is just me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apotekaren (904220) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:39PM (#30246408)
    ... does the 30th of November sound like a great day to pull pranks like false fire-alarms and what-not to interfere with the deal? For once I my life I would condone civil disobedience, and for once it might even have an impact.
    • by erroneus (253617)

      Yes, I can see jacking around with the electrical and communications systems to disrupt things being put into place.

      A thought has been bubbling up from the back of my mind for the past twenty or so years and continues to grown steadily. I live in an extremely corrupt nation.

  • Good? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by headkase (533448) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:39PM (#30246410)
    David Brin in his novel: Earth [wikipedia.org] had some backstory (which is not in that link) about a war on the "Gnomes". This was a war on secrecy in banking. The story went along the lines of it was a purging moment in human history, in secrecy evil hides. Purging the "Gnomes" stripped a great deal of power from the corrupted mechanisms of society. Now, with that said any information collected will be abused but this offers some perspective.
    • Re:Good? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Idiomatick (976696) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:52PM (#30246514)
      Well with the new shell ui I'd side with KDE too.
    • Excellent! A little deeper digging has revealed: The Transparent Society [google.com] (Google Books, preview a bit online!) which is a non-fiction work by him, an author of the caliber of mind to successfully have made his predictions in Earth. It is summarized on this wiki page: Here [wikipedia.org]. Now I will admit that I have not read that particular work but I trust Brin as enough of an authority that I will assume its mostly good! Now I am going to have to go and peruse that text! ;)

      MOST importantly the wiki page specifical
    • You have heard of the term privacy have you?
      There is a difference between “secrecy” and privacy!

      But hey, because of a novel on some imaginary things, you now think that there must be evil hiding there, and so all privacy must be eliminated.
      Way to go...

      I got news for you. My government friends and I had a chat, and we think that your brain and your bowel are covered in way too much secrecy! And as “secrecy hides evil”, we asked our American friends here, to stake you onto our new inne

      • by headkase (533448)
        Aggregate information can be used to spot any trend with the appropriate algorithm. Aggregate information may also not be completely private, again, with the appropriate algorithm. The balance I believe is to release aggregate information to trusted neutral parties only. They will only be trusted if they have a mandate to not employ algorithms that seek to negate privacy. However, and being neutral, they must also have a mandate to uphold their principles or purpose to be given the information to begin
  • About Time! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MarkvW (1037596)

    The tax cheats are going to have a much harder time when the want to park their money offshore. This is really good news.

    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:48PM (#30246482)

      So US tax cheats get caught at the expense of EU privacy? F***ing s**t deal if you live in the EU. My transactions have got cock all to do with you.

      And Americans wonder why everybody hates them.

      • I'm American and I've traveled overseas quite a bit. I didn't run into a lot of hate. So either I beat the odds or else you're full of shit. I know which side my bets are on.

        And it's not like Europeans don't pull shit trying to tell others what to do. The EU tries to enforce their Protected Geographic Status stuff in the US all the time.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_designation_of_origin [wikipedia.org]

        And yet I don't hate Europeans.

        • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:06PM (#30247166)
          Americans are nice. Generally very open, sociable people who will be happy to strike up a conversation with you if they notice you're from a country they've been to or some such. The United States of America (and, by extension, the people making up the American government) is a sociopathic asshole of a country that constantly betrays the principle it was founded on and follows international law only when it feels like it (and tries to get the law amended so it can do whatever it wants).

          Huge difference. I'd be happy to come over to the place where the Americans live and spend some time there - if only that place didn't happen to be America.
        • by rve (4436) on Friday November 27, 2009 @02:25PM (#30247336)

          I'm American and I've traveled overseas quite a bit. I didn't run into a lot of hate.

          I'm a euro and I spend a lot of time in the US. While staying there can be absolutely delightful on a superficial level (good food, wild nature, lots of space, polite yet informal people, clean cities), I've learned to keep my mouth shut, and just zone out whenever a discussion takes place. When asked for my opinion, I've learned to answer only in variations on 'dunno', 'uhm' and 'you're right'. When people ask where I'm from, I'll make up a word that may sound like a real place to avoid everything I do, say or think reflecting on an entire country. Anything short of blind devotion to all things American, and in fact disagreeing with an American may be taken as anti-American, ungrateful and arrogant and a reason to put you right back in your place. I don't encounter 'hate' much, but a lot of contempt. The sudden darkening of people's moods when the realization hits them 'wait a minute, this euro thinks he's an equal'.

          Anyway, it can be avoided by playing the quiet type, sticking to superficial and / or work related subjects and let them blame your apparent lack of an opinion or ego on the years of communism in your native Molvania.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lordtoran (1063300)

            Yes, that's a big problem with them, the thinking that their way is the only one that can be. I travel a lot and also hang out on travel forums. The funniest I ever read there was from a fellow German living in Nicaragua. He said that the coast is overrun with American expats, who have been living there for ten or twenty years, don't know one word of Spanish and still demand that the locals speak their language. What a fucked up life that must be.

    • Re:About Time! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:49PM (#30246492) Journal

      Is it worth catching corporate criminals at the cost of civil privacy?

      Also, there are lots of ways around Taxation laws, legally, that require NO money off-shore. Using Charity receipts, holding companies, and company expenses, you can essentially cut your profits down so you don't get taxed as much while everything you want to purchase is owned by various companies (which you own but not directly).

      It's kind of like you run company A, and Company B owns your car, Company C owns your house, Company D buys food, etc etc, and while the paper trail exists, theres nothing illegal about it. Shaw Communications (Cable company here in Canada) has mastered this technique. Yeah, the CEO is driving his Porsche around Calgary, but on paper he makes under 30k a year.

      • Is it worth catching corporate criminals at the cost of civil privacy?

        No, absolutely not. Mostly because we DON'T have to wholly sacrifice one for the other. I'm all for a more streamlined and formalized(read accountability) process for getting some kind of "international warrant" for this data, but FULL ACCESS!?!?! F*** fishing expeditions.

        • I'm all for a more streamlined and formalized(read accountability) process for getting some kind of "international warrant" for this data

          Not a bad idea. Interpol operates under the United Nations, I believe. Could they be expanded to deal with such activities?

      • by jipn4 (1367823)

        Is it worth catching corporate criminals at the cost of civil privacy?

        There is very little "civil privacy" to lose for Europeans; European governments already have access to this information about European citizens.

        But if Europeans somehow take offense that the US specifically has access to this data (rather than just every podunk European government from olive country to the Baltic), they can take that complaint right back to their own politicians and companies: the only reason the US can demand this data

      • "Is it worth catching corporate criminals at the cost of civil privacy?"

        That is a good question to ask. Another one is:
        What is the bigest treat to freedom, the government inspecting people for corruption or allowing corruption to go unoticed (even inside the government)?

        As of today, I have no answer to both of them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      You really think that's the intention? Are you so delusional that you think this is going to be used against the big tax cheats? The very same that fund the politicians that put these ideas into reality?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:49PM (#30246502)

    They'll give access to all inter-bank transactions. The whole issue started with the revelation that US intelligence had access to SWIFT data through SWIFT's US data center. SWIFT then shifted its operation to its other data centers and will cease channeling EU transaction data through the US data center by the end of the year. So the loss of access for the US spies is the SWIFT data, but the treaty will give them access to all inter-bank transactions, even those which are not processed by SWIFT. This is a classic rebound technique: The EU cannot spy on its own citizens like that, but they do get information back from US spies.

    Who's to blame? The US, for shamelessly exploiting the people they often call their friends? The EU council, for betraying their people? Why choose...

    If this goes through on Monday, there will be calls to punish the EU Council for treason, but of course nothing will come of it.

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:04PM (#30246628)

      If this goes through on Monday, there will be calls to punish the EU Council for treason, but of course nothing will come of it.

      As far as I'm aware, the EU still takes more public money than any other organisation that has failed to produce audited accounts, and it's been doing so for more than a decade now. I think we can safely assume that they are above the law. And if they're not, as we've recently seen with the Lisbon treaty, they are quite capable of rewriting the law until they are, without needing any mandate from the people.

  • How do you ask for a deal like this with a straight face, while not offering quid pro quo?

    No really, I'd love to know how.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Friday November 27, 2009 @12:59PM (#30246592)

    The United States is so clearly the new Roman Empire that it makes it
    almost cute that they keep denying it.

    There is no clearer sign than this agreement that we are
    officially living in a PAX AMERICANA in the 21st century.

    I guess we better hope that the guy with the somewhat forced
    smile is nice to us.

    If the US wants to have jurisdiction over the populations of the
    world though, wouldn't it be only fair ("all men are equal...")
    to give citizens of the colonies (= world - China) a vote in the
    US presidential election?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      wouldn't it be only fair ("all men are equal...")
      to give citizens of the colonies (= world - China) a vote in the
      US presidential election?

      What good would that do? Corporations bought and paid for the US government long ago. It's all a big kabuki theater. They'll continue to get away with it too, because Americans continue to get shiny new gadgets and gizmos to keep them occupied and stupid.

    • Yeah, and the Roman Empire fell into darkness (mostly) because they couldn't retain control over their over-extended dominion. No nation-state has ever survived at such a large size. As soon as all the troops are over in
      X-istan or wherever, revolt would happen somewhere else.

      Simply put, when the people aren't happy, there is no way to keep the peace. If these men abuse their powers, but the people are happy - whats to say that a blissfully happy life isn't a good life?

    • The American empire, such as it is, is only analogous to Rome in its scope, not at all in nature. For one, the US has not added to its directly controlled territory since WW2 regardless of numerous opportunities to do so (and is unlikely to do so ever again without an unforseeable radical change in the US approach to geopolitics). Secondly, rather than extracting tribute from its immense sphere of influence, instead the US sends ridiculous amounts of 'aid' everywhere, undermining its own ecomony to try to b
      • "For one, the US has not added to its directly controlled territory since WW2 regardless of numerous opportunities to do so"

        - Unless you count active covert ops and financial support for the overthrow/assassination of disagreeable governments throughout Latin America. That's pretty direct control of the territory if you ask me.

        - Unless you count the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

        - Unless you count the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

        - Unless you count the economic blackmail (threats of trade restri

    • The United States is so clearly the new Roman Empire that it makes it almost cute that they keep denying it.

      US politicians have clearly been arguing for a unipolar world, with the US as the only superpower. So, I don't see why you think Americans are denying hegemony over the rest of the world.

      However, there are two major differences between the US and the Roman Empire. First, the Europeans and Japanese aren't paying taxes to the US; in fact, the US is actually still effectively financing part of the Euro

    • by corbettw (214229)

      We only recently gave the right to vote in Presidential elections to our territories and capitol city, what makes you think we'd want the proles from the rest of the world adding their voices to the din?

      Besides, our ancient rallying cry of "no taxation without representation" has a flip side: if you have representation, expect to start paying taxes.

  • by MinistryOfTruthiness (1396923) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:01PM (#30246606) Homepage Journal

    As a US citizen, I say "WTF Europe -- are you insane?!"

    I believe in the right of every country to protect their sovereignty, and this sound like a gigantic ceding of that sovereignty, and as egregious as the formation and delegation of power to the EU. The absolute best way to avoid tyranny on a massive scale is to ensure the distribution of power to the greatest extent possible. That's why I believe in states' rights, and why I believe Europe is being a bunch of asshats right now. I'm as patriotic as they come, but I understand the capability of anyone -- Americans as much as anyone else -- to become drunk with power. In the same spirit, I applaud that no American financial data will be given to Europe. At least they got it half right.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spad (470073)

      The EU Council of Ministers is an unelected body of the usual group of money-grabbing power-hungry and our of touch morons who do whatever you want if you've got the cash. The EU parliament (which *is* an elected body) on the other hand, has thus far been pretty good at representing the wishes of its constituents and has managed to thwart the CoM's attempts to force through some corporate-sponsored legislation against the wishes of the citizenry on several occasions.

      As much as I dislike the Lisbon Treaty, o

      • by Halo1 (136547) <jonas.maebeNO@SPAMelis.ugent.be> on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:52PM (#30247048) Homepage

        I think you are confusing the Commission with the Council of Ministers. The Commission is completely unelected.

        The Council of Ministers, as the name says, consists of ministers from the member states' governments. These ministers differ depending on the topic that's being discussed, but they're always ministers.

        So unless your ministers are unelected (depending on the country either directly or indirectly), it's not really correct to describe them as "an unelected body of the usual group of money-grabbing power-hungry and our of touch morons who do whatever you want if you've got the cash."

        That said, it is true that the Council is used a lot by member states to launder legislation that they would never even dare to propose in their own country. Later on they will then claim at home that they are obliged "by Europe" to implement these unpopular measures nationally, while they themselves are the reason that "Europe" does so.

        The Lisbon Treaty also has a downside in this respect in that it makes many decisions require less stringent majorities (or a majority rather than unanimity). The result is that it takes more countries to oppose bad proposals, and generally that delegations will be less likely to even try to oppose something, because this costs political capital and there is less chance to win anyway.

      • by pmontra (738736)
        I dislike this deal but every single member of the EU Council has been elected in his/her own country with the right of representing that country. They are either Prime Ministers or Presidents. That said, they probably are the usual group of money-grabbing power-hungry and our of touch morons who do whatever you want if you've got the cash, but they have also been elected. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/showPage.aspx?id=429&lang=en [europa.eu]
    • This all could have long grown out of war treaties from WWII perhaps?

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Oh no. Nothing of the sort. You see, it is unethical and wrong for a country to spy wholesale on its own citizens. Most unethical. Many countries even explicitly ban the practice. But if another country does it...oh well, the information was already collected, right? So we might as well use it. You scratch my back...
    • You have a situation of power with out accountability. When you own government can do something, the good news is that there is accountability. You, the people, have the ability to call them to account on it. Now it does seem that people often don't do that, but you can. For that matter the government itself can demand accountability. One branch can get the records and check up on another branch.

      However all that goes away when you are talking about another government. The US government is not accountable to

  • IBAN ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by daveime (1253762) on Friday November 27, 2009 @01:25PM (#30246806)

    As all of the EU can use IBAN for European transfers, I don't see the issue. The only reason we're still stuck with SWIFT is when making a transfer to/from outside the EU anyway, which invariably means US / Canada, in which case they already have access to the data.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by joost (87285)

      As all of the EU can use IBAN for European transfers, I don't see the issue.

      The issue is that IBAN is also using SWIFT to transfer data between banks. IBAN is just a standard inside EU, SWIFT is the company that has the datacenters where it all is stored. So this really is a huge issue even if you don't use the SWIFT-code directly.

      On a related note: I've never understood why our local government (Netherlands in my case) always wants to lick USA's ass so much. Sure you guys saved us from Hitler, thanks a bun

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Do you actually know anything about banking?

      IBAN (International Bank Account Number) is only a consistent identification scheme for bank accounts so transfers can be processed with STP (straight-through processing, eg without manual intervention to fix spelling errors / typos / inconsistent punctuation - as a student I had that job in a bank). The actual transfers are made using TARGET (Trans-european Automated Real-time Gross settlement Express Transfer System). This is is based on SWIFT communications wit

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