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Opinion Article Open Access

SWIFT Privacy: Data Processor Becomes Data Controller


Last month, SWIFT emphasised the urgent need for a solution to compliance with US Treasury subpoenas that provides legal certainty for the financial industry as well as for SWIFT. SWIFT will continue its activities to adhere to the Safe Harbor framework of the European data privacy legislation. Safe Harbor is a framework negotiated by the EU and US in 2000 to provide a way for companies in Europe, with operations in the US, to conform to EU data privacy regulations. This seems to conclude a complex privacy case, widely covered by the US and European media. A fundamental question in this case was who is a data controller and who is a mere data processor. Both the Belgian and the European privacy authorities considered SWIFT, jointly with the banks, as a data controller whereas SWIFT had considered itself as a mere data processor that processed financial data for banks. The difference between controller and processor has far reaching consequences.

Edwin Jacobs

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