It appears that SWIFT is going to move its global data centre from the United States to Switzerland, to avoid having to deal with US fishing expeditions. See:
heise online - SWIFT puts EU data beyond the immediate reach of the US
SWIFT puts EU data beyond the immediate reach of the US
The supervisory board of SWIFT has approved the plans for the restructuring of the systems architecture of the financial messaging network the outlines of which had been known for some time. The core of the realignment is the creation of a global data processing center in Switzerland. To this will be added a command-and-control center in Hong Kong. The first step toward the realization of the project that has now been approved by the supervisory board will involve the expansion of the central news platform of SWIFT, in an attempt to aid the setting up of several processing zones.
By engaging in the restructuring effort that is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009 the financial messaging network based in Belgium is trying to accomplish a score of targets aimed at satisfying the desires of customers. Thus by preventing immediate access by US authorities to international transfer data -- as is currently the case via the network's computing center in the United States -- data privacy concerns are to be dispelled. In addition SWIFT hopes that the new message architecture will boost the processing capacity of the system, improve reliability, lower information transfer costs and, into the bargain, open up new business opportunities in general.
The financial messaging service intends to create two message processing zones: Europe and Transatlantic. The new global computing center would as a partner of the extant European data processing center, among other things, take on the mirror function of the current US facility, the organization declared. Transfer information belonging to the European zone would be processed and, if need be, stored there. The Swiss location would also process and store data emanating from the US center, it was said. "Messages within a zone will in future remain in their region of origin," SWIFT CEO Lázaro Campos said by way of explaining the new principle, which takes account to a greater degree of concerns voiced by data privacy watchdogs and members of the European Parliament and which will define the future modus operandi for the European Economic Area at least.
According to statements made by SWIFT the choice of Switzerland as the seat of its global data processing center was the result of a comprehensive survey of possible European locations. The decisive factors determining the choice of location had been the suitability of existing infrastructure, the availability of skilled staff and the presence of an appropriate framework of data privacy legislation, SWIFT noted. Switzerland had fulfilled these criteria to an outstanding degree, the organization observed. The financial messaging network has put the costs of the approved initiative at the one-off sum of 150 million euros. In addition some 50 jobs would be created in the European and Asian branches of SWIFT, it was said.
The network has managed to secure a safe harbor agreement for the existing data center in the United States that will stay in effect until the new Swiss computing center commences operations. The company has thus volunteered to abide in the US by data protection provisions that accord with European standards, allowing it thereby to benefit from the transatlantic safe harbor concept. A breach of the data protection provisions agreed to could in theory cause the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to intervene. However, as the United States can on its territory order data to be handed over the seizure order of the US government remains in force for the time being. SWIFT has, however, assured its customers that it has implemented "unique protective measures" and has received "security guarantees" from the US government for the remaining period of time. These fulfilled the obligation to protect the privacy of customer data and the requirements of EU and US law, the organization stated. One of the most important data access restrictions was the one according to which the US Treasury Department was only given access to data that met specific search criteria in the context of a terror investigation, SWIFT explained. There was moreover a supervision regime in place when data requested by a US authority was made available to the authority in question, the organization added.
SWIFT processes international bank transfers with a volume of about 4.8 trillion euros every day. About 8,100 banks from 208 countries and regions are connected to the network. On its busiest day to date 13,663,975 bank transfer messages shot through SWIFT's data lines. Last year it emerged that US security authorities have access to SWIFT servers and are in a position to analyze the information that is being collected. Following the safe harbor assurances given by SWIFT the European Commission has given its blessing to the current financial-data access regime in the United States. In the US two customers of US banks have filed lawsuit alleging that bank transfer data of theirs was illegally passed on to security authorities by the network; the government for its part is trying to block these lawsuits. (Stefan Krempl)
For previous posts on this topic, see SWIFT.