European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx has indicated his belief that the privacy rights of air passengers between the EU and US will be threatened by the information-sharing deal to be struck on 29 June that seeks to prevent terrorist attacks.
Passenger information will now be able to be kept by the US for 15 years, up from the previous maximum of three. But EU officials have rejected the assertion, saying the agreement, which will come into effect at the end of July, has more safeguards than previously. While the US maintains the exchange of letters that will seal the deal is not legally binding, Brussels regards it as an international agreement that could be revoked if not complied with.
EU citizens will also be covered by the US Privacy Act for the first time, meaning they could enforce their rights in US courts.
The new deal must be ratified by national parliaments before taking effect.
Concerning access to financial data, June 2006 saw Belgian financial transfer association SWIFT in the headlines, as it was revealed that officials from the CIA, the FBI and other US agencies had since 2001 been allowed to inspect the transfers as part of their global fight against terrorism.
SWIFT, which stands for the Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunications, manages the codes for international payments and handles around 11 million financial transactions per day in more than 200 countries worldwide.
Commissioner Frattini called on respective financial institutions "to take all the necessary steps to ensure their quick compliance with European data protection law."
From now on, all banks using SWIFT will have to inform their customers about such transfers.