Canada's privacy commissioner, on Monday, said she will investigate whether financial records and transactions of Canadians were improperly disclosed to U.S. authorities tracking terrorist financing, by a Belgium-based society for banking communications.
Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, said in a statement that she has notified the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) of the probe.
SWIFT provides a service that routes millions of messages from 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries.
In June, several U.S. newspapers reported that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA and the U.S. Treasury Department began examining financial records utilizing SWIFT.
While the White House stressed the program focused on highly suspicious financial transactions, the revelation raised concerns for civil libertarians and privacy law advocates, who feared that the records of law-abiding citizens were at risk.
"The SWIFT situation concerns privacy commissioners worldwide and is something we need to examine in more detail," said Stoddart.
Stoddart said the probe would determine whether there had been any breach of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada's private sector privacy law.
The probe would also "determine whether personal information relating to Canadians' financial transactions is being improperly disclosed by SWIFT to foreign authorities," she added.
U.S. President George W. Bush had criticized the U.S. media for reporting the findings, saying the disclosure of the details of the program "makes it harder to win this war on terror."