Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper – increasingly joining the NSA revelations train – reports today that the intelligence agency is interested in international credit card transactions and may have found a way to monitor payments processed by companies including Visa. Spiegel alleges it has even set up its own financial database to track money flows.
The paper says that in 2011, the NSA possessed 180 million records via its “Follow the Money” branch dubbed ‘Tracfin’, according to information acquired by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. The vast majority of information is from credit card transactions.
It also alleges that the NSA targets the transactions of customers of large credit card companies like Visa for surveillance in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. However, Visa denies this is happening.
Tracfin’s data bank – says Spiegel – also contains data from the SWIFT network, used by banks to send transaction information securely, possibly attained by watching printer traffic from numerous banks.
However, the document Spiegel has seen reveals that even intelligence agency employees are concerned about spying on this kind of information, which is full of “rich personal information”. I bet it does.