All Yurp’s Data Belongs to US

Remember how the Germans were trying to delay agreement on a deal giving the US access to European bank data until there was time for a debate?

They caved.

In a little noticed information note released last week, the EU said it had agreed that Europeans would be compelled to release the information to the CIA “as a matter of urgency”. The records will be kept in a US database for five years before being deleted.

Critics say the system is “lopsided” because there is no reciprocal arrangement under which the UK authorities can easily access the bank accounts of US citizens in America.

They also say the plan to sift through cross-border and domestic EU bank accounts gives US intelligence more scope to consult our bank accounts than is granted to law enforcement agencies in the UK or the rest of Europe.


According to the EU information note, the United States can request “general data sets” under the scheme based on broad categories including “relevant message types, geography and perceived terrorism threats”.

And yes, scribe told me so.

Of course, if you think the CIA is not also collecting such “general data sets” in the US, you’re nuts. We just get more details about it when it happens in Europe.

21 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I wonder what leverage Magician Obama pulled out of his hat to persuade Brussels to believe his magic? This agreement drives a hole the size of the Mont Blanc tunnel in the EU data protection regime.

    I wonder if the people who developed and run that scheme expected that the “law enforcement” exception for protecting personal data would include sharing data with a foreign government that looks with capitalist disdain at EU rules, practices and standards of social accountability, or that it would Hoover up all their digital data. Or that that foreign government would routinely outsource its most sensitive work to private corporations, who “anonymize” and put that data to lucrative commercial use?

    What are the odds the CIA will “destroy” the data it collects after the agreed five years? I think they’re better that EW will win the lottery on back to back draws.

    Who will actually collect, store, process and utilize that data? Only federal employees of the DoD, NSA or CIA? I think not. What terms will bind them to the US’s obligations and how well will they be policed and enforced?

    • lawordisorder says:

      That sure sounds like a plan comming from the coffeemaker thingy….loool

      Before you all go weird and constitutional on me…think what this baby can catch…not only terrorist…dare i say “prince” oh no thats what i smoke…lol the biggest MF Peacemaker you guys ever saw…and the best part no blod, no cost…hell it might even turn a profit…and no the corp pundits don’t get to peak..but you guys got give me a hand in figure out how i get some nuke safeguads built in, so no papadick lays his hand on this baby..other than that it will selfdestruct..and were back to sqare one

      Talk about bang for buks ay….loooool

      Just my five cents worth

  2. CTuttle says:

    If the data sets are analyzed by private contractors working for the CIA, it’ll only be a matter of time before US Banks have a look see at ’em…!

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The potential to abuse this data for the political gain of the party in power and the commercial gain of public and private US companies is significant.

    What would Goldman Sachs do with such data on its competitors and its and their customers? (It has one of the few private computer teams capable of doing so, were it to be granted access to that data.) Let’s ask the dedicated federal employees at the US Treasury, before they go back to Goldman.

    Will we soon read that Goldman Sachs has a new systems subsidiary, that it’s found new applications to commercialize on their unique supercomputer skills, and that it has landed a slew of new government contracts? Or will that story be spiked?

    • alabama says:

      Too true, but equally “significant” are the arts of resistance, as we see with “asymmetrical warfare”.

      I just hate to see great inventions applied to stupid, stupifying, ends.

      Flaubert had it right when he said that he inhaled stupidity, like air. What he didn’t say (out of modesty, perhaps?) is that he put stupidity on display as no other writer could do.

    • emptywheel says:

      And the reverse is true. With this data, they ought to be able to shut down illegal use of Switzerland as a haven, they ought to be able to track mafia money and corporate corruption.

      So why aren’t they?

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This is a protocol about transferring to the US, not bilaterally, EU banking data. The announcement, naturally, was shy on data about the methodology of transfer about how broadly the CIA could phrase its requests for data or data “sets”. Langley, I expect, will not be shy in reaching for as much as it can take. It is passing strange that the deal is not reciprocal – I wonder if a Goldman team member had a hand in that. It would also be useful to know what, if any, restrictions, besides destruction after five years, the EU was able to impose.

  5. 1970cs says:

    The method for collecting ‘sets’ of banking data is already in place and in use. Credit card transactions go over the phone lines, that info can be rerouted so it lands in the U.S. and can be/is sent to Ft. Meade before any transaction is finished worldwide.

    Any transaction made in or through a bank anywhere still is sent to a central server for that bank, thus vulnerable.

  6. ncaleb says:

    Sucky for Europeans. I’m an American abroad in a law & technology program in the Netherlands. My European friends generally gloat about the superiority of their privacy protection regime… oops!

  7. scribe says:

    For those of you who wonder why this was so “little-noticed”, consider this: I saw it (and told EW with the “told you so”) on 11/30. But the story was as good as spiked. It only was covered in German-language media, and even then down in the agate type.

    Here’s the German-language article on how the EU folded to allow the US to get into the SWIFT servers and all that money flow information

    The only English language source I could find (nothing on the FT or Reuters sites): SWIFT itself. Even then, the statement was seriously oblique and decidedly untransparent.

    In what might have been the biggest spike, Reuters provided this nice video report linked through the FAZ site. It’s in German….

    And, the video tells them that when they use an ATM the Americans will be watching.

    Media fail? I don’t think so. This was a deliberate fail.

    • scribe says:

      Oh, and BTW, the way the Euros justified folding was that they claimed the investigation of bank data made possile identifying the so-called Sauerland-group of alleged terrists. This is all contained in the first article I linked – the text article. The Sauerland group, so named because they were holed up in a country house in the Sauerland part of Hesse with barrels (literally) of high-strength hydrogen peroxide (for making TATP), was busted about a year or 18 months ago. These were homegrown Germans who’d gone over to terrism jihad. Their alleged targets were US military installations in the Frankfurt area.

      That bust came the Monday or Tuesday after Merkel’s party had concluded one of their periodic caucus/conventions (they call them a “Parteitag”) in the same town where the alleged targets were supposed to have been.

      Was that timing an accident or coincidence? I doubt it – how many times did we see the color level raised to push some legislative priority or other? The Germans are quite capable of doing the analogous thing.

    • emptywheel says:

      Actually, there were tech sites that covered it. It was not entirely spiked–it was covered by some of the same kinds of outlets that have covered PATRIOT.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      There’s always EW’s reporting. German isn’t quite as inaccessible as say, Finnish or Hungarian, but it’s not as widely read as Chinese or Spanish. The latter, at least, is an official EU language.

      That the German version isn’t yet translated into English is problematic for the EU as well as here. Der Spiegel’s site ought to have it. But the NYT, FT and WSJ have “the tools, they have the talent”. They ought to cover a significant international, privacy, financial and security issue. So, yea, let’s make a little articulate noise.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Receiving repetitive database error messages on the top comment. Checking to see if it applies here.

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