In June 2006 the media revealed startling information according to which the US administration had obtained access to SWIFT transaction data within the context of its efforts to combat terrorism. As SWIFT is headquartered in Belgium, the investigation by the country’s Commission de la protection de la vie privée is of particular importance. The Privacy Commission published the result of its work on 27 September 2006.
After receiving information about these developments from the press, the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) contacted the most important players in the Swiss banking sector to obtain more details. Based on the knowledge thus gained, on the Belgian report, as well as on the position of the Swiss Federal Council for the attention of the Control Committee of the lower house of the Swiss parliament of 4 July 2006, the FDPIC issues the following opinion.
As part of the reorganization of its operational activities, and in response to the strong increase in the volume of money transfers that has occurred in the last few years, SWIFT decided that in addition to its Operation Centres in Belgium and the USA, it would add a third centre in Switzerland by the end of 2009. It also decided to separate transfers into two zones, one for Europe and one for transatlantic transactions. Thus, all internal European transfers will in future be covered by the two Operation Centres in Switzerland and Belgium, and all transatlantic transfers will be handled by the Operation Centre in the USA and Switzerland. As the US administration can only gain access to the data processed by the US Operation Centre, it will no longer have direct access to all intra- European transfers.