The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) has generated significant intelligence that has helped detect terrorist plots and trace their authors. An EU-US Agreement on the exchange of financial information ensures protection of EU citizens' privacy and gives the U.S. and EU law enforcement authorities a powerful tool in the fight against terrorism.
The TFTP was set up by the U.S. Treasury Department shortly after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Since then, the TFTP has generated significant intelligence that has been beneficial for both the U.S. and EU States in the fight against terrorism.
An international agreement on financial messaging data transfers to the U.S. Treasury Department is necessary to ensure that the TFTP continues to produce security benefits. However, the European Parliament rejected an interim EU-US Agreement, since it did not sufficiently protect EU citizens’ privacy.
The new EU-US TFTP Agreement , which took effect on 1 August 2010, is a substantial improvement compared to the interim Agreement. The text introduces the appropriate safeguards to accommodate legitimate concerns about security, privacy and respect of fundamental rights.
The Agreement significantly strengthens data protection guarantees relating to transparency, rights of access, rectification and erasure of inaccurate data. It guarantees non-discriminatory rights of administrative redress and ensures that any person whose data are processed under the Agreement will have the right to seek in the U.S. judicial redress for any adverse administrative action. The Agreement further acknowledges the principle of proportionality as a guiding principle for its application.
Under the Agreement, a European public authority - Europol - assesses whether the data requested in any given case are necessary for the fight against terrorism and its financing. Europol also verifies that each request is tailored as narrowly as possible to minimise the amount of data requested. If a request for data does not meet these conditions, no data can be transferred under the Agreement.
The Agreement also empowers the EU to undertake a significant review of all its aspects. A first such review took place in February 2011, followed by a Commission report [296 KB] in March. The second report was published in December 2012. In addition, the Commission has appointed an independent overseer who monitors, on a permanent basis, all TFTP searches and the respect of privacy and data security safeguards.
The Agreement also takes into account the European Parliament's call for a "two-step approach", i.e. initially allowing for transfers of bulk data until an EU system equivalent to the TFTP is established. This will result in more targeted transfers of data in the future. In addition, the Agreement commits the U.S. to cooperate and provide assistance to ensure the efficient establishment of an equivalent EU system. In July 2011, the Commission set out the different options [62 KB] for establishing such a system.
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