Internet Banking and Privacy Policies

Privacy policy legislation affects internet banking just as it does any other type of banking establishment. You might want to keep your personal information private. If so, it is good to know how your bank treats privacy policy.

A study was done to determine how well different banks, including internet banking companies, dealt with privacy policy. All financial institutions should have privacy policies that are consumer friendly. This is in keeping with the spirit of the law.

The law in question is the Gramm-Leach-Blily Act, or GLB, as it is often called. This was enacted by Congress in July of 2001. It gives power to financial institutions to conduct business in many important ways.

More importantly to consumers, there is a section devoted to the privacy of banking customers, including internet banking customers. Banks must provide consumers with a copy of their privacy policy. This explains how your personal information will be used by internet banking operations and other banks.

Your personal information would include any information that can be identified as your particular information. It could be your name, address, social security number, internet banking transactions you have made in your name, and other information. It could also be any information that can be guessed by having some of this information.

The study evaluated bricks and mortar banks, clicks to bricks banks, virtual bank internet banking operations, and other financial institutions. It compared each company's privacy policy, how they informed consumers about their privacy policy, and what options consumers had with them to "opt-out."

If you opt-out, you are saying to the company that you do not want your information to be shared with other companies that are not affiliated with the bank. Under GLB, internet banking services still have the option of sharing your information with affiliates and marketing partners, but they should inform you that they are doing so.

One problem has been that the privacy policy statements sent out to consumers by internet banking companies and other banks have been impossible for most people to decipher. They are not exactly an easy read. There is a movement to make them easier to understand.

Another problem is that some internet banking companies have made it very difficult to opt-out of having their information shared with unrelated businesses. It should be the easiest with online banking. Indeed some internet banking companies have online forms to fill out so that you can be finished with it in short order.

However, some internet banking sites make it nearly impossible to opt-out. They make you go to an 800 number, or write for a mail-in form, or they may not have opt-out at all. These are in the minority, but you should watch for them when comparing online banks.

The good news is that virtual internet banking companies that offered standard banking services like checking and savings accounts scored the best in the study. If you want to keep your information private, check out your internet banking institution's privacy policy before you sign up.


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