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Financial data mining yields no gold nuggets

September 19, 2013

Financial privacy is becoming a fading memory of the past due to aggressive regulations by Western governments that require bankers to serve as snitches against their own customers for transactions that may or may not be criminal in nature. These regulations are costly for the banks to comply with (costs which are ultimately passed on to customers), and they carry a price for citizens’ privacy as well.

All that might be forgiven if the invasive policies actually result in stopping terrorists, their financial transactions, or their operations.  But according to new research being conducted in the European Union, the results of such programs are “meager and sometimes debatable.” The government holds the data while you’re left holding the bag.

A tip of the hat to Andrew S. Bowen for sending this over:

Terrorism financing barely traceable using data analysis

28 August 2013

Doctoral research by Mara Wesseling has shown that the data analyses being performed as part of the European fight against terrorism financing are of little use for preventing terrorism. Wesseling will receive her doctorate from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) on 3 September.

Immediately following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the European Union created the EU Action Plan for Combating Terrorism, which included action against terrorism financing as a ‘core component’. Politicians, policymakers and legal experts stress the importance of combating terrorism financing, as they see money as a crucial element in the propagation of terrorism. Specific programmes have been set up to address the problem.

‘My research shows that it cannot yet be demonstrated whether these programmes have had much success with regard to tracking down suspected terrorists or preventing terrorist attacks. In light of the meagre and sometimes debatable results of both programmes, the question arises whether the social and political changes instituted as part of the data-analysis-driven fight against terrorism are (still) desirable or justified,’ Wesseling says.

Terrorist Finance Tracking Program

In her research, Wesseling analysed the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP – better known as the SWIFT programme in the wake of the ‘SWIFT affair’) and the Third European AML/CFT directive. These two programmes constitute the most significant initiatives in the European fight against the financing of terrorism.

It has been shown that risk analyses carried out by banks as part of the Third European AML/CFT directive have revealed virtually no patterns that point to terrorism financing. Wesseling goes on to say that the preventive power of the TFTP to detect terrorist networks at an early stage is also limited…

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