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European Parliament blocks EU-US data-sharing agreement

February 11, 2010

In a rare burst of sanity and concern for the rights of EU citizens, the European Parliament has exercised one of its very limited range of powers and blocked an agreement to continue the ability of the US government to access the Swift international bank transfer system. The parliament argued that the agreement, the descendent of a secret arrangement discovered in 2006, which came about in the aftermath of 9/11, paid insufficient attention to privacy. They are right. It doesn’t pay any attention to the safeguarding of citizens’ information rights, it merely confirms the terms of the undemocratic original agreement, one of a surge of such arrangements that were rushed through in the wake of the attacks when no-one was likely to pay much attention to things like human rights. Now, however, in an slightly less charged atmosphere, the Parliament has been able to demand that such rights should be respected in any transparent and accountable agreement. No-one is arguing that data should not be shared where there is a case for it to be shared, but this should not be at the expense of the rights and freedoms of which we are supposedly exemplars.

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