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Home > Privacy and Government > Privacy Law Governing the Government Sector > Sectoral Laws > The Right to Financial Privacy Act

The Right to Financial Privacy Act

The Right to Financial Privacy Act (12 U.S.C. 3401 et seq.) was Congress' response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision finding that bank customers had no legal right to privacy in financial information of theirs held by financial institutions.

The law is largely procedural. It requires government agencies to provide individuals with notice and an opportunity to object before a bank or other institution can disclose personal financial information to a government agency, usually for law enforcement purposes.

The Right to Financial Privacy Act has many loopholes, and it allows financial information to be revealed based on a much weaker showing than the Fourth Amendment requirement of probable cause. The law was weakened in the late 1980s to allow postponement of notice to bank customers in investigations dealing with drug trafficking and espionage.


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[updated 8/29/00]

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