Archive for October, 2007

Whatever Has Happened to EU Data Protection?

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

I recently received a circular to the following effect from my bank in the UK.

While the main message of the circular was that the bank was now adding a new clause permitting it to make my account data available to overseas regulators, this was the first time I came to know that they already had a clause allowing them to transfer to, store and process my account data in foreign countries, including those countries that did not offer adequate data protection.

From my previous interactions with banks in Europe, I always got the impression that customer data could not be accessed from abroad, let alone be transferred to or stored in foreign countries. When I checked the printed booklet that came with my account opening welcome kit, I couldn’t find any section titled “Transfer of Data Abroad”, though I could find such a clause – and many others missing in the printed booklet – in the online version of the terms and conditions posted on the bank’s website. Hmm.

I’ve now started wondering whatever has happened to European Union banking data protection, which has traditionally been considered very stringent and coming in the way of offshoreability of EU banking applications. It would be interesting to know how many banks in the UK and elsewhere in the European Union have a similar provision in their terms and conditions.

Inheritance As A Hot Topic

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Here’s one on cultural differences, a topic I’d promised to cover while launching Talk of Many Things (read the introductory post here) but one to which I haven’t done much justice since then.

A few months ago when my sister stepped off the plane from New York and stood in the immigration queue at Heathrow, she was asked by the immigration officer if “inheritance” was how she was planning to support herself during her stay in London. Neither she, I or anyone else in our family have ever been asked about inheritance while entering any of the dozen countries we have traveled to in the past.

At the time, we thought this was a one-off question asked by a one-off immigration officer to a one-off visitor to the United Kingdom.

After reading the headlines over this weekend, I am not so sure.

Last weekend, the Labor party was leading over the Conservatives in the opinion polls by a hefty margin of 11 percentage points. The nation was abuzz with rumors that Gordon Brown (Prime Minister of UK) would announce a snap election this fall. Yesterday came the surprising news that there will be no election this fall, nor one in the next year in all probability. Today’s THE SUNDAY TIMES in London carries the results of a YouGov opinion poll, according to which the Conservatives suddenly lead the Labor party by 3 points – which is a shocking 14 point swing in favor of the Conservative party in just one week.

This drastic change in public opinion is widely attributed to the Conservative party’s showing at its party conference held in Blackpool during the past week. Singled out for mention is its announcement that it would increase the inheritance tax threshold to one million GBP from the present figure of 400,000 GBP.

Just one single announcement – about inheritance – seems to have caused such a wild swing in public opinion.

Which is why I’m now beginning to wonder if the question my sister was asked was not such a one-off question asked by a one-off immigration officer to a one-off visitor to the United Kingdom.