U.S., E.U. Reach Data-Sharing Agreement - InformationWeek

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7/2/2007
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U.S., E.U. Reach Data-Sharing Agreement

The United States agreed to reduce the amount of passenger information it collects and to limit the use of banking data for counter-terrorism only.

The United States and the European Union have reached agreements on how the United States can collect and review people's travel and financial data.

The United States agreed to reduce the amount of passenger information it collects and to limit the use of banking data for counter-terrorism only. The European Union announced that it would create an oversight position to monitor the United States' use of the data, reporting to a civil liberties commission and other E.U. leaders annually.

Under the Terrorist Finance Tracking program, U.S. investigators review financial information from about 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries, by subpoenaing an international banking network based in Brussels. They also collect 34 pieces of information on international travelers, including names, contact information, payment method, and itineraries. Both practices raised the ire of E.U. leaders, who claimed the United States violated privacy laws. The agreements reduce the amount of information collected on travelers to 19 pieces of information.

E.U. leaders announced last week that the U.S. Treasury Department finalized an agreement limiting the use of the financial data from SWIFT. The agreement prohibits commercial use of the information. It states that the government will analyze data to cull and delete data that is not relevant to terrorism investigations and the U.S. government agreed to delete dormant information after five years. SWIFT is also making changes to ensure that consumers are alerted when their information has been accessed, according to the announcement.

Franco Frattini, European commissioner for justice, freedom, and security, said he welcomed the agreement as well as SWIFT's commitment to comply with European data protection laws.

"The E.U. will have now the necessary guarantees that U.S. Treasury processes data it receives from Swift's mirror server in [the United States] in a way which takes account of E.U. data protection principles," he said in a statement.

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