Privacy campaigners are threatening to sue the European Commission over its plans to release citizens' data to the FBI.

The Commission is understood to be close to finalizing an agreement with the United States that would allow the FBI to see the credit card histories and internet browsing habits of European citizens. The agreement would mark a substantial lowering of the barriers to the provision of data from Brussels to Washington.

News of the state of the talks has angered privacy organizations. One leading campaigning organization, Privacy International, said on Monday it would consider taking legal action against the commission.

"It is very much on the cards for Privacy International, or one of the other civil rights organizations, to take legal action against Brussels," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "It would depend very much on how the framework has been established. We will have to see the text, consult the legal experts and see where we stand."

"One of the key problems is the secrecy which has surrounded the terms," said Davies. "We have no knowledge about where our information will flow once it reaches the U.S. In all respects, this is a bad deal for Europeans. It plays into the hands of the U.S. in the worst possible way."

Davies added that U.S. laws made it impossible to exchange data fairly between Europe and America.

The United States is keen to gain access to European citizens' data to help it tackle the threat of terrorism. Talks to gain access to citizens' data were ramped up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.