US to get access to your personal files – bank details, visited websites, salari
US to get access to your personal files – bank details, visited websites, salaries…
By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 11:29 PM on 29th June 2008
American intelligence agencies may soon be able to access the most private and personal details of British citizens.
Under an agreement being negotiated between the EU and Washington., U.S. agencies including the CIA will be allowed to view details of bank accounts, travel plans and even the sites individuals visit on the internet.
A secret document giving details of the agreement has been leaked to the New York Times.
The easy sharing of information between countries prompts more fears over identity theft and privacy issues
The deal will make it easier for American law enforcement organisations to obtain private information from banks, credit card firms and other companies – as well as from government offices.
In the past, companies handing over such details ran the risk of breaching European data protection laws. But these laws are expected to be relaxed under the new agreement.
American security organisations insist the information is necessary to prevent further atrocities such as 9/11.
But the deal came under attack from former shadow Home Secretary David Davis, who resigned as an MP to force a by-election on civil liberties issues.
He said: ‘Given this Government’s disastrous failure to protect data, whether losing 25million child benefit records in the post or laptops containing sensitive security information, the public will have real concern about the wholesale transfer abroad of its personal data, under a set of diluted safeguards negotiated in Brussels.’
Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty, said: ‘We can barely trust our own authorities with sensitive personal information. What redress will we have on the other side of the Atlantic if our details are lost of abused?’
Secret negotiations have been going on for nearly 18 months and sources in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security expect the data agreement to be approved and go into effect before President George Bush leaves office next January. One source at the department said that as a result of the deal, the U.S. was likely to ask for full details on everyone visiting from Europe.
This will include all visitors’ financial details – their bank statements, salaries, who they write cheques to and receive money from and what they buy with credit cards – and what internet sites they visit on their home computers.
The information involved is already available on the massive computerised databases kept by private companies that closely monitor each individual’s credit rating for the financial industry and by the major computer search engines that are used to browse the Internet.
At this point there are privacy laws that restrict unauthorised access to these databases but the new agreement would oblige the companies that keep them to hand over the information to Washington.
It will result in a flood of information crossing the Atlantic but the American intelligence agencies can handle it with super-computers that are programmed to pick out only those reports that contain what the U.S. considers to be suspicious activity.