SWIFT ("Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication") is a worldwide financial messaging service which facilitates international money transfers.
Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the United States Department of the Treasury served administrative subpoenas requiring SWIFT to transfer personal data held on its United States server in order to identify, track and pursue those who provide financial support for terrorist activity.
After press reports revealed this transfer of personal data, involving also banking data of European citizens, European data protection authorities found several breaches to the fundamental data protection principles, in particular relating to transfers of personal data to third countries (see Article 29 WP opinion 10/2006). Also, the EDPS adopted an opinion focusing on the role of the European Central Bank (see EDPS opinion).
Following these findings, many improvements were put in place in order to ensure full compliance with data protection legislation: SWIFT adhered to the Safe Harbor; the US Treasury provided clarifications and assurances concerning access and processing of SWIFT data; SWIFT announced important changes in the architecture of its payment services, ensuring that intra-European messages remain in Europe and are no longer mirrored in the United States.