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EU Overturns Agreement With US On Banking Data 214

Following the lead of the civil liberties committee which last week recommended dropping it (against the wishes of the US), qmaqdk writes "The EU parliament overturned the previous agreement with the US which allowed US intelligence agencies to access EU banking data."
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EU Overturns Agreement With US On Banking Data

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  • Well done! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N3tRunner ( 164483 ) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:23PM (#31108738)

    Good for them, way to grow a spine, Europe! Now if only American banks had the same motivation to protect its customers data from the very same agencies.

    • Re:Well done! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:30PM (#31108792) Homepage Journal

      But they're on the same side, and they get their buddies into plum jobs - just look at how good Henry Paulson was for them. Why would American banks argue with the American government? Everyone would benefit more if they just agreed to scratch each others' backs. (Well, except for the customers, but who cares about them, right?)

      • Re:Well done! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@gmail.COLAcom minus caffeine> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @11:04PM (#31109016)

        But they're on the same side

        There is no such thing in politics and finances.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aceticon ( 140883 )

          But they're on the same side

          There is no such thing in politics and finances.

          I think you are confusing the act they play for public consumption with the real thing.

          It's like lawyers: in court they will fight for their side (it's their job), but outside they might go out together for golfing on weekends.

          The main difference is that lawyers have constraints which for example make it unlawfull to get together and screw one of the sides in a case for personal benefit.

          Politicians and the "masters of the universe"

    • It's not like America needs special privileges for a lot of that information [] right now anyways.
    • Now if only American banks had the same motivation to protect its customers data from the very same agencies.

      The problem with that is banks are Federally chartered in the US. The FBI can make life difficult for any bank that does not comply.


      • > The problem with that is banks are Federally chartered in the US.

        There is such a thing as state chartered banks.

        > The FBI can make life difficult for any bank that does not comply.

        And here I thought the Federal Reserve, FDIC, OTS and state regulatory agencies regulated banks.

        • And here I thought the Federal Reserve, FDIC, OTS and state regulatory agencies regulated banks.

          "Oh you need to wire 250,000 dollars, well we never received your 'Know your customer.' paperwork, so we're going to delay the transfer until you get us new copies. Have to make sure you're not banking with terrorists. What? You say you sent us the originals? Well, we're going to need you to get us some new originals, signed in triplicate.'


    • >>Now if only American banks had the same motivation to protect its customers data from the very same agencies.

      I think they're more motivated by Uncle Sam's moneybags.

      If you're a friend of the government, the government will cover your risky losses. You get to be Goldman Sachs. If you're not, then you get to play as Wachovia. In other words, being a friend of the government is the optimal place to be, since it lets you gamble as wildly as you like - you pocket any upside, and if your gamble doesn't pa

    • Re:Well done! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:14AM (#31110730)

      British courts did the right thing this week too- they ruled against the British government/US attempts to cover up US intelligence handed to the UK proving that one of our citizens was tortured before being moved to Guantanamo before being eventually released with no charges.

      Turns out British intelligence was aware of the torture, which is why most people assumed our foreign office had such an interest in keeping it covered up in the first place.

      Despite American threats to withdraw intelligence sharing if the data was released, our courts ruled that the data should be released, so it's a bit of a double win this week in standing up to oppressive American strong arm tactics of threatening to put us at risk from terrorists if we don't do what they say.

      • Re:Well done! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by germ!nation ( 764234 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:39AM (#31111364)

        With regards to the torture thing, we do tend to get these unusual rulings in the UK around election time when there are points to score. I wonder if the ruling would have gone the same way had it happened in June when everyone was still waiting to see which way the wind was blowing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Xest ( 935314 )

          It's been a bit hit and miss all along really this one though, it's been a fine line- first off the details were going to be released, then they weren't, then they were, then we had to wait for a home office appeal, now the home office finally lost the appeal and they were released.

          So to be fair, this one has been swaying either way so long, I don't think that's it.

          The oink ruling was a bit more of a pleasant suprise though, although that was trial by jury so I suspect even that ended as it did for differen

      • Re:Well done! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @08:24AM (#31111590)

        Actually it's not quite as good of a decision as was being made out once you get past the headlines.

        The decision in question was specific to a few paragraphs in a report which the UK government had said had to be censored because the US asked us to keep out of the public - so we did.

        At some point, a report in the US publically quoted those paragraphs and so UK courts ruled that since the information was now in the public domain there was no reason not to publish the censored paragraphs ourselves

        The decision did however go against the UK governments continued wish to keep the paragraphs censored since those paragraphs basically said the UK knew about and supported torture of a UK citizen.

        [It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2001 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

        v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

        vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and "disappearing" were played upon.

        vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

        viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the inter views were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

        ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

        x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities]"

        Source: FCO Website : []

  • Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:27PM (#31108770) Journal

    Now they'll just have to go back to the old fashioned way.

    In case of emergency, break law

  • by weirdcrashingnoises ( 1151951 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:33PM (#31108804) Journal

    I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or if that fails..

      US: Hello there small child can I see your private parts?
      EU Banks: No, my parents said I'm not allowed to show those to anyone.
      US: Thats ok, lets keep it a secret between us.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by skine ( 1524819 )


    • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @11:22PM (#31109128)

      Actually, as I understand it, this one was more a case of I'll show you yours if you'll show me mine.

      The intelligence "sharing" is done precisely because each side could get in legal and/or political trouble for spying on its own citizens without good cause. On the other hand, if it's just foreign intelligence provided by a friendly state, well, that's OK, then. This is as much one in the eye for certain EU governments (whose appointed representatives previously forced this measure through at European level mere hours before the Lisbon Treaty kicked in and meant the elected MEPs would get a say, remember) as it is for the US.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:35AM (#31109494)

        As a US citizen, the first thing that came to mind when I read this was "WHOO HOO!"

        About the only ones that are going "Oh no!" are the people in my government that feel that they should be able to get away with/do anything they damned well please, and that the rest of the world should just bend over, take it, and like it.

        Just to be perfectly clear on the matter, I am VERY much opposed to those tactics from my government.

        I am VERY pleased to see the power hungry hands and arms of my government get bitch slapped like this. VERY pleased. The concept of "Soveriegnty" when it is applied to "Foriegn nations" is apparently something my government has serious difficulties understanding.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, as I understand it, this one was more a case of I'll show you yours if you'll show me mine.

        No. The agreement was unilateral. The US had no obligation to provide the EU with the same information, which was the main reason why it was overturned. At least, that's the main point according to news sources on our side of the Atlantic.

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:24AM (#31111300)

          Are you sure you're not confusing this with other recent controversial agreements, such as the extradition of people like Gary McKinnon? That agreement has been controversial both for being asymmetric and for the low standard of evidence and poor guarantees of a fair trial.

          In this case, AIUI, the issue is data protection and privacy. The EU has much stricter rules on these things than the US, and normally the law prohibits exporting such data outside Europe without proper safeguards. The US in general does not provide those legal safeguards, and in this case, it's not even the legitimate users of the data who would be working with it outside the protections, it's a foreign government.

          There is simply no reason they should be entitled to claim that information in some unrestricted, open-ended fashion. With the lack of guarantees we have, they could just pass it back to European governments (who may or may not be legally allowed to demand access to that information en masse and without reasonable grounds themselves) or to US-based businesses to give a commercial advantage over their EU-based competitors.

          • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:30AM (#31111326)

            Sorry, just to clarify my own post: yes, the SWIFT-related deal is inherently one-sided in terms of the US getting the information first, but that isn't the cause of the main complaints here in the UK, at least not those that have been widely reported in the media AFAICS. People aren't asking why the US isn't doing something reciprocal (what would that be, given the nature of SWIFT?), they are asking why this is allowed at all.

        • Actually, as I understand it, this one was more a case of I'll show you yours if you'll show me mine.

          No. The agreement was unilateral. The US had no obligation to provide the EU with the same information, which was the main reason why it was overturned. At least, that's the main point according to news sources on our side of the Atlantic.

          That is what the poster you responded to said. Since the agreement wasn't for both sides to see data from the other it was overturned. The EU has been trying to get access to US banking records for quite some time. They want to be able to get access for their tax authorities.

      • This deal was only about the US government being allowed to monitor all money transfers made by SWIFT and had noting to do with any European organisation being allowed to see money transfers inside the US. Please note that the US government was already monitorying all money transfers made by SWIFT secretly before the previous agreement (or the one before that). But as I understood it, there was some (gentlemen's) agreement that the US government would share their finding of terrorist activities after having
  • A good start! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:34PM (#31108814)

    It's a shame that similar action won't be forthcoming when it comes to the lopsided extradition treaties though.

    N.B. These don't apply to all EU member states but are particularly bad with our spineless foreign office.

  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @10:36PM (#31108826) Homepage Journal

    About time the EU showed some backbone and told the US where to stick it. The US has bent everyone else over and had their way far too long. Now that the US's economy is a mess, the dollar is weak and getting weaker and the Euro is fast taking the place the Dollar once had, the US needs to be sent a strong, loud and clear message that it's hay day is over and it's going to have to rely upon diplomacy, cooperation and fair play instead of idle threats and ham-fisted foreign policy towards it's allies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by OnlineAlias ( 828288 )

      FYI, the Euro is tanking against the dollar right now, as investor's fear of a crash of the Euro due to the PIGS. And that is against an already heavily devalued dollar. Now would not be a good time to deny European banks access to the American market. Your plan would pretty much ensure the demise of the Euro as European countries end up pulling out of the Eurozone so they don't have to bail out the PIGS. If they don't figure out some way to devalue the Euro even further for the countries that are in deep

      • That's called diplomacy :-)

      • That's media frenzy. There is no Plan B, countries leaving Eurozone, etc. There will be bailouts somehow (and there are already underhand mechanisms going on to replace what states used to be able to do - Ireland is buying bad bank assets with government bonds, and the European Central Bank will swap the banks cash for the bonds). Politicians have said as much and it is only fear and superstition that traders aren't just accepting that.

        On the other hand, the UK has been postponing big trouble (due to the im

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 11, 2010 @11:30PM (#31109186)

    Putting their own petty concerns over the safety and security of American citizens.

  • Soon a new US law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arthurpaliden ( 939626 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:13AM (#31109404)
    It will soon be illegal for an American or any entity operating in the United States to use the SWIFT money transfer service.
    • It's not like the US wants to be part of the modern world (read: SWIFT) anyway... WTF is that $20 charge for transferring money?
      • by toQDuj ( 806112 )

        While there is a charge for some bank transfers, most international e-banking transfers within the EU are charge-free. I have never had more than about a euro charge for a transfer outside the EU. If you get charged 20 dollars, talk to your bank, it seems to me they're the most likely culprit.

        • by einar2 ( 784078 )
          It is a bit different. Due to the SEPA ( agreements, money transfers got cheaper inside the SEPA area, but they are not for free.
          Money transfers do cost money and they are suprisingly complicated for a bank. Worst case, a customer wants to transfer money to a bank with which the bank has no business relation. Then the bank has no accounts with the other bank which complicates things. Often such transfers are routed through half a dozen financial instit
  • by linuxhansl ( 764171 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:34AM (#31109490)
    is to require reciprocity. That goes for access to financial data as well as travelling/airline data.

    It seems to me the US is quick to access other countries' data, but it far less willing to provide equal access to internal data as well.
    Hence this would either level the playing ground or put a stop to US demands.

    • by keeboo ( 724305 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @01:38AM (#31109850)

      is to require reciprocity. That goes for access to financial data as well as travelling/airline data.

      Though slowly, it seems that other countries are getting fed up with certain US policies.
      Your comment reminded me of this incident [] few years ago.

    • You also have to be aware that you have to be in a certain position to make such demands, the US is slowly but surely loosing that position. The european countries have not had such a position for a long time. And I must say it is more cozy not to have it than to have it.
      But the US has to get used to it, and that transition is mentally hard for a lot of people!

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Not a good way. What if the US agrees to it? Then we Eurpoeans still have our privacy violated as well as the privacy of the American public. Two wrongs don't make a right.

      It is not so much that we do not want to share data about (potential) criminal activities. The problem is that we do not want to share the bulk.

      It is like listening in on phone calls. Not OOjk if you listen to them all. OK if you have a court order to listen to specific individuals to build a case against them.

      So not OK to see all my data

    • Two wrongs don't make a right.
  • parliament (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @03:09AM (#31110210) Homepage Journal

    The european government consists of two elements - the commission and the parliament.

    What you need to know in short:

    The commission is appointed, completely undemocratic, and holds most of the power and does most of the actual activity. It also bends over backwards whenever the US wants something. It was the commission who gave away our flight data, our personal data, our Internet data and now our banking data.

    The parliament is elected, is the democratic body, and has very limited powers (though they have shifted around a bit with the last reform). It isn't exactly a mecca of reason, but it more often than not stops the worst excesses of the commission.

    So once again, I applaud the parliament. They're fighting uphill battles against the commission all the time.

    • Re:parliament (Score:5, Informative)

      by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:38AM (#31110552)

      Actually the european parliament since the Lissabon treaties now are in place is more powerful than ever, which is a good thing, since the parliament is very democratically elected and thanks to the sheer number of fractions things like fraction alignments like it happens in some local parliaments never can happen.
      For some european countries now the EU parliament is the first parliament they have in history which really acts like a parliament and not like some whore following whatever the fraction alignment tells them to do just to stay on the payroll of someone.

      I would say since the Lissabon treatys the EU is closer to democracy than some EU countries are, we have the comission which can be axed by the parliament and every, absolutely every law which needs to be passed down to the countries have to be ratified and can be axed by the parliament (before it had advisory status, they could axe but in the end there were enough other ways to push the gutter down)

      The problem also never was the comission, the media just blew it out of proportion, in fact some parts of the comission really do an excellent job for instance the ones which handle the anti trust issues. Important things such as the Swift treaty mostly were carried on by the council of ministers, which is represented by ministers of the single countries, exactly those persons who voted yes in those gremia and then went home to their own countries blaming the EU for what again was passed down over the EU into the single countries. Speaking of lying the members of the council of ministers were the biggest liers and basically scapegoated the EU and Comission for everything they simply did themselves! I personally stopped blaming the comission for everything because most of the evil stuff simply came over the council of ministers down the last years (mostly the interior ministers which seem to have a habit of becoming assholes as soon as they are appointed, or have been the biggest ones before even being appointed)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The commission is appointed, completely undemocratic,

      The commission is appointed by the governments of the member states, and has to be approved by the EU parliament. Just in the recent weeks, a new commission was formed, and one of the candidates appointed by the national governments needed to be replaced because it became apparent that there was too much resistance against her in the parliament (which doubted her competence). Not saying it is perfect, a big point for criticism for example is that the parliament (AFAIK, still) can only accept or reject the p

  • One of the possibilaties is that SWIFT moves to Switserland where the EU has nothing to say. The banks do not really care, so it would be an easy solution for them. That would mean that new laws would be made (perhaps in each country individually) to avaoid the transfer of the information to Switserland (and then to the US).

    This will be a lot harder to avoid and could take several years if it would happen at all.

    • by einar2 ( 784078 )
      Switzerland is not sharing bank information with other countries; expect for defined cases of legal help. However, the crime which is the base for such a legal help request must be respected in Switzerland as well.

      Disclaimer, I am Swiss and I work for a Swiss bank
  • The EU grew something resembling a spine. Fine. Well done. You've got to start somewhere.

    Now the remaining question is: how do we make sure that EU banking data is adequately mined for leads and clues and that the US is warned the instant something is detected? Because it just so happens that the US is the party that's most at risk, and the EU is the party with porous borders to Islamic nations around the Mediterranean, and an indigenous Muslim population numbering several million which demonstrably conta

  • The German Chancellor has said that it's OK for her tax-collectors to buy & use bank data that was stolen... []

    Since most Western Govs are broke, they're going after any cash they can, whatever it takes.

    So don't worry about the intelligence guys being deprived; they'll just call their buddies in IRS, (who still have access to US accounts in the EU, I believe). Chinese walls, I hear you say? Know how to recognise one? It's got a grapevin

  • The big joke here is that we Americans actually had the double think of publicly asking for permission to spy on everyone. Europeans, on the other hand, have known for centuries that spying is something that you do in secret and don't ask. Thus, while we Americans are like, "uh, we can't spy on Europeans because we are not allowed", the reality is, the British, French and Swiss intelligence services probably know from data mining what I'm going to eat for lunch before I will.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats