The U.S. National Security Agency is gathering information on bank transactions and credit card payments all over the world, the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday, based on documents leaked by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden.
According to the magazine, U.S. spying over the past few years has created a massive database containing information about all kinds of financial operations, whether they be via banks or credit cards, especially Visa.
The NSA's internal "Follow the Money" program by 2011 reportedly had gathered 180 million financial records, some 84 percent of them pertaining to credit card transactions, and the information is stored in one of the top secret security agency's databases known as "Tracfin."
The main type of information gathered under the program concerns transactions by people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to the German magazine.
Der Spiegel named two companies as targets of the surveillance - Visa and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Belgian network used globally by financial institutions to send and receive information about transactions.
The magazine says that the gathering of such data could have serious consequences and that the European Parliament, as well as the European Commission have already warned that this type of NSA snooping could result in the potential suspension of the so-called SWIFT agreement.
Since 2010, certain specific information has been provided to U.S. authorities, although those transmissions are subject to rigorous data protection measures.
Der Spiegel's report comes amid a stream of revelations about the NSA's activities, which include the alleged massive gathering of personal data from people all over the world. EFE