A couple of years ago the European Parliament agreed to exchange bank transfer data from SWIFT to US authorities, without reciprocality, and now Spiegel reports that the NSA not only widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions but also collects this data in its own financial databank. Besides data from Europe, the agency also monitors the Middle East and Africa.
The information from the American foreign intelligence agency, acquired by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that the spying is conducted by a branch called "Follow the Money" (FTM). The collected information then flows into the NSA's own financial databank, called "Tracfin," which in 2011 contained 180 million records. Some 84 percent of the data is from credit card transactions.
Further NSA documents from 2010 show that the NSA also targets the transactions of customers of large credit card companies like VISA for surveillance. NSA analysts at an internal conference that year described in detail how they had apparently successfully searched through the US company's complex transaction network for tapping possibilities.