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Tuesday, 29th July 2014

Privacy Protection for Customer Financial Information

Source: Congressional Research Service via Federation of American Scientists


With modern technology’s ability to gather and retain data, financial services businesses have increasingly found ways to take advantage of their large reservoirs of customer information. Not only can they enhance customer service by tailoring services and communications to customer preferences, but they can benefit from sharing that information with affiliated companies and others willing to pay for customer lists or targeted marketing compilations. Although some consumers are pleased with the wider access to information about available services that information sharing among financial services providers offers, others have raised privacy concerns, particularly with respect to secondary usage.

The United States has no general law of financial privacy. The U.S. Constitution, itself, has been held to provide no protection against governmental access to financial information turned over to third parties. United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 (1976). This means that although the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a search warrant for a law enforcement agent to obtain a person’s own copies of financial records, it does not protect the same records when they are held by financial institutions. State constitutions and laws may provide greater protection. At the federal level, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, 12 U.S.C. Sections 3401-3422, provides a measure of privacy protection by setting procedures for federal government access to customer financial records held by financial institutions.

+ Direct link to document (PDF; 231 KB)



Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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