MEPs still unhappy with Swift data privacy implications

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MEPs have outlined a number of remaining data privacy concerns concerning proposals that will allow the US to view bank transactions that occur in Europe.

The European Parliament voted in February to reject the interim Swift element of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme, after privacy rights groups argued that it would be the first step in Europe outsourcing its surveillance to the US government.

The agreement has to be negotiated again, but the Parliament is struggling to come to terms with the same clauses that prompted it to reject the last agreement.

MEPs have principally criticised the fact that the Swift agreement will allow transfers of data not only on specific suspects but on large numbers of people "in bulk".

They have also argued that the agreement should not go ahead before citizens' rights over their own personal data are defined more clearly, notably concerning access, rectification, compensation and redress.

German social democrat MEP Birgit Sippel said that she favoured "as good an agreement as possible", rather than "an agreement as soon as possible".

Sippel believes that the European Council should wait for the Parliament's decision on 6 May before the proposals are given the go-ahead, and asked how the Council and European Commission can be sure that only data from the region that is required for security purposes is passed to the US.

The Council and Commission have shown more support for the agreement than the Parliament, believing the programme necessary to enhance the security of citizens.

"There will be a vote in favour of the draft mandate proposed by the Commission," said Council member and Spanish presidency representative Diego López Garrido.

As for bulk data transfers, Garrido said that "this principle will need to be maintained for technical and efficiency reasons".

Cecilia Malmström, EC commissioner for home affairs, stated publically in February that she regretted the Parliament's decision not to pass the Swift agreement.

"I know this is a great concern for the Parliament, but without it there would be no Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme," she said.

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