Financial privacy must not remain underexposed
The practices of advertising companies such as Google and Facebook often give rise to discussions about data protection and privacy. The operations of secret services and similar organizations such as the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) equally draw attention and criticism.
There is a growing trend – remaining largely under the radar – towards general financial surveillance, whereby a number of large companies can follow citizens and organizations in detail on the basis of payment data. This is encouraged by public authorities and is spreading throughout society for all sorts of reasons, causing major data protection risks for citizens.
Privacy First would like to pay more attention to what it calls financial privacy in the period ahead.
What is financial privacy?
Financial privacy relates to the following:
- Detailed personal financial data in the hands of banks and other large parties. Nowadays, payments are made digitally for the most part; cash payments are becoming ever less common. As a result, parties involved in processing payments (banks, payment service providers and account information service providers) have detailed information about all their customers, including consumers, companies and various sorts of organizations. This means that these parties know a great deal about their customers. Financial data are becoming more and more detailed for all kinds of reasons and ever more companies can access these data. iDEAL 2.0, for example, is expected to cause further proliferation of personal financial data. In the past, banks have tried to monetize the financial data of customers, in the way that American advertising companies do, think of the ING affair in the Netherlands. This was stopped at the time, but could come back.
- New PSD2 services. The European Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) was intended to allow new services to be developed around the financial data of customers of payment institutions, including account information services. However, insufficient thought has been given to data protection, putting citizens at risk. Privacy First has been working on a campaign called Don’t-PSD2-me for several years now.
- Cash payments are disappearing, and so is this method of last resort to evade being tracked by banks from hour to hour. The European digital currency that is being developed is unlikely to be completely anonymous to enable crime fighting.
B. Privatization of crime fighting and the provision of services to public authorities
- Crime fighting duties of banks and other financial institutions (‘anti-money laundering’). These duties result in the collection of additional personal data of citizens. This concerns not only the identification of natural persons, but also the collection of data on and from natural persons involved in organizations. This may include directors and representatives of legal entities as well as the ultimate stakeholders. Customers often find themselves having to share confidential data with financial institutions in an insecure way. Please note that this is not only about crimes that can harm the customer or the financial institution. Institutions must actively check whether their own customers are holding criminal money and must report any suspicions of crime (‘unusual transactions’) to a section of the Dutch police: the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The EU is currently working on a set of regulations, also known as the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) package, which will radically change the way in which companies combat crime. As a result of new regulations, more and more financial data will be transfered by companies to public authorities.
- Identification through biometrics among other ways. Banks and other financial institutions have to identify their customers, first and foremost to find out (under private law) with whom they are entering into an agreement, and secondly because anti-money laundering rules require it. There is some fuss about identification efforts, partly because banks now want to ‘re-identify’ existing customers, sometimes requiring biometric data in the process.
- UBO Register. Part of the crime-fighting duties of banks and designated enterprises, is that they must identify the ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) of their customers and verify the accuracy of their customers’ registration with the UBO Register. Privacy First has litigated against the UBO Register and is now awaiting the outcome of similar cases pending before the European Court of Justice.
- Black lists. As part of crime fighting efforts and in order to protect financial interests, blacklists of ‘suspicious’ and convicted customers are created in the financial sector. There are two such lists, known as the internal referral register (Dutch abbreviation: ‘IVR’) and the external referral register (‘EVR’). The rules for these registers are laid out in ‘PIFI’, the Protocol Incident Warning System for Financial Institutions. Insurers have a complete overview of all claims that insurees have submitted to them. Increasingly, other companies with crime-fighting duties also want to create blacklists.
- Provision of data to public authorities (data reporting). Financial institutions, employers and, in the future, platforms too are required to provide data to public authorities. Within the framework of the obligation to provide information, many confidential data are collected from customers. One particular example is the obligation of financial institutions to collect customer data for the purpose of taxation by other countries. In this respect, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is well known. It’s the US law that requires financial institutions around the world to provide free services to the US tax authorities, which relates not only to tax residents of the US and persons with property in or income from the US, but also anyone who has US citizenship (even if these people are without any real ties to the country, so-called ‘accidental Americans’). The Netherlands has entered into a FATCA treaty with the US and also participates in the ‘Common Reporting Standard’ (CRS), that many (EU) countries have implemented.
- Merchants in financial (personal) data. A number of very large and little-known parties are active on behalf of financial institutions, collecting financial and other data on both consumers and the natural persons involved in various organizations. These data are sold to financial institutions, among others, as credit information and as anti-money laundering information. Although these merchants must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation, they usually don’t, so the people whose data are being sold are not aware of the presence of their data with those merchants, nor can they verify whether the data are accurate and whether they were obtained lawfully. In other words, these people cannot exercise their GDPR rights. According to Privacy First, these merchants should be required to be licensed, just as financial institutions are, with a strong regulator and a strict review of executives.
- The Dutch Credit Registration Office (Bureau Kredietregistratie, BKR). This is a foundation recognized by the government and established by the financial sector to register data for the benefit of that sector.
What will Privacy First be doing?
Financial privacy covers a wide and complex area, which makes it difficult to tackle the issues surrounding this topic. In recent years, Privacy First has been active on the following subtopics:
- The UBO Register;
- The preservation of cash and anonymous means of payment.
 See for example https://ellentimmer.com/2015/12/23/gegevensuitwisseling/ (in Dutch).
Privacy First’s Don’t-PSD2-Me Register: a recap and a look ahead
As an NGO that promotes civil rights and privacy protection, Privacy First has been concerned with financial privacy for years. Since 2017, we have been keeping close track of the developments surrounding the second European Payment Services Directive (PSD2), pointing out the dangers to the privacy of consumers. In particular, we focus on privacy issues related to ‘account information service providers’ (AISPs) and on the dangerous possibilities offered by PSD2 to process personal data in more extensive ways.
At the end of 2017, we assumed that providing more adequate information and more transparency to consumers would be sufficient to mitigate the risks associated with PSD2. However, these risks turned out to be greater and of a more fundamental nature. We therefore decided to launch a bilingual (Dutch & English) website called PSD2meniet.nl in order to outline both our concerns and our solutions with regard to PSD2.
Central to our project is the Don’t-PSD2-Me-Register, an idea we launched on 7 January 2019 in the Dutch television program Radar and in this press release. The aim of the Don’t-PSD2-Me-Register is to provide a real tool to consumers with which they can filter out and thus protect their personal data. In time, more options to filter out and restrict the use of data should become available. With this project, Privacy First aims to contribute to positive improvements to PSD2 and its implementation.
Protection of special personal data
In this project, which is supported by the SIDN Fund, Privacy First has focused particularly on ‘special personal data’, such as those generated through payments made to trade unions, political parties, religious organizations, LGBT advocacy groups or medical service providers. Payments made to the Dutch Central Judicial Collection Agency equally reveal parts of people’s lives that require extra protection. These special personal data directly touch upon the issue of fundamental human rights. When consumers use AISPs under PSD2, their data can be shared more widely among third parties. PSD2 indirectly allows data that are currently protected, to become widely known, for example by being included in consumer profiles or black lists.
The best form of protection is to prevent special personal data from getting processed in the first place. That is why we have built the Don’t-PSD2-Me-Register, with an Application Programming Interface (API) – essentially a privacy filter – wrapped around it. With this filter, AISPs can detect and filter out account numbers and thus prevent special personal data from being unnecessarily processed or provided to third parties. Moreover, the register informs consumers and gives them a genuine choice as to whether or not they wish to share their data.
We have outlined many of the results we have achieved in a Whitepaper, which has been sent to stakeholders such as the European Commission, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the Dutch Data Protection Authority. And of course, to as many AISPs as possible, because if they decide to adopt the measures we propose, they would be protecting privacy by design. Our Whitepaper contains a number of examples and good practices on how to enhance privacy protection. Among other things, it lays out how to improve the transparency of account information services. We hope that AISPs will take the recommendations in our Whitepaper to heart.
Our Application Programming Interface (API) has already been adopted by a service provider called Gatekeeper for Open Banking. We support this start up’s continued development, and we make suggestions on how the privacy filter can be best incorporated into their design and services. When AISPs use Gatekeeper, consumers get the control over their data that they deserve.
Knowing that the European Commission will not be evaluating PSD2 until 2022, we are glad to have been able to convey our own thoughts through our Whitepaper. Along with the API we have developed and distributed, it is an important tool for any AISP that takes the privacy of its consumers seriously.
Privacy First will continue to monitor all developments related to the second Payment Services Directive. Our website PSD2meniet.nl will remain up and running and will continue to be the must-visit platform for any updates on this topic.
SIDN Fund supports Privacy First initiative on PSD2 opt-out register
PSD2 opt-out register
Is it possible to have innovation in the field of payment data while preserving privacy? Under the new European banking law PSD2, payment data can be shared with non banking parties. The legislator has, however, failed to implement privacy by design. Therefore, the Privacy First Foundation has taken the initiative to launch a PSD2 opt-out register in the Netherlands. We are happy to report that the SIDN Fund is supporting us in this. With this opt-out register bank account numbers can be filtered. This can be useful in case bank account numbers are linked to sensitive personal data, such as a payment to a trade union, a healthcare insurer, a political party or an organization that reveals one’s sexual preference. It can also be useful when consumers wish to filter their contra accounts. The Dutch PSD2 opt-out register could become trendsetting at a European level.
Source: https://www.sidnfonds.nl/nieuws/de-eerste-pioniers-van-2019, 22 May 2019 (in Dutch).
Follow https://psd2meniet.nl for updates and become a member of our PSD2 Privacy Panel! (in Dutch)
For all its projects and affiliated activities, Privacy First is largely dependent on donations. The more financial support and donations we receive, the sooner Privacy First will be able to launch the PSD2 opt-out register.
European PSD2 legislation puts privacy under pressure. Privacy First demands PSD2 opt-out register
New European PSD2 legislation in force
At the start of 2019, the Payment Service Directive 2 will enter into force in the Netherlands. Under this new European banking law, consumers can share their banking details with parties other than their own bank. This first requires their explicit consent, upon which banks must share all transactional data of the consumer (account holder) with an external party (financial service provider) for a period of 90 days, after which the consumer can renew his consent. The consumer can also withdraw his consent at all times.
PSD2 is a great concern to Privacy First
Privacy First is very worried about PSD2. The law focuses too much on improving competition and innovation while the privacy interest of account holders is overlooked. These are Privacy First’s greatest concerns:
- Consumers are not in a position to limit the amount of banking details. Even in case a financial service provider does not need these details, all data are shared just the same once the account holder has issued his consent.
- The bank details of a consumer include the details of contra accounts. Holders of such accounts are unaware of the fact that their details may be shared and are not in a position to prevent that. As transactional data will be analyzed much more widely with the use of Big Data and data analyses than before the introduction of PSD2, there will be a much greater risk of privacy violations.
- Banking details contain ‘sensitive personal data’ that may only be issued under strict conditions. A subscription payment to a trade union, political party or organization that reveals one’s sexual preferences, should be considered sensitive personal data according to Privacy First. The same applies to transactions with health insurance companies and pharmacists. Currently, there is no way to filter out these data and they are being issued to parties that are not allowed to process them.
During an episode of the Dutch television program Radar that was broadcast on Monday 7 January 2019, Privacy First drew particular attention to these issues.
PSD2 quality label aims for transparency
Privacy First wants consumers to get honest and transparent information on what happens to their data. We advocate not for lengthy privacy statements, but rather for information that fits on a single sheet of paper. This information should not come from the financial industry, but from consumers themselves. After all, they can best decide which information they find valuable when making a choice. During 2018, Privacy First worked on this initiative along with the Volksbank and other partners from the financial sector.
PSD2 opt-out register
Privacy First is surprised that no attention has been paid to the role of ‘sensitive personal details’ in transactional data. Such details may only be shared under strict conditions and therefore have to be filtered out. Equally, consumers who do not want others to share their data with financial service providers should have the opportunity to prevent this. That is why Privacy First would like to see an opt-out register, similar to the do-not-call-me register which has been around in the Netherlands for many years. During the Radar broadcast, Privacy First announced it would bring forward this proposal, hoping to be able to develop it further together with the financial sector and policy makers. The aim is to have a compulsory opt-out register. This will, however, require amending the European PSD2 directive.
 Additional information: it concerns all transactional data. The extent to which these data go back in time varies per bank. See the overview (in Dutch) of the Dutch consumer association: The majority of account holders saves their bank statements for at least five years https://www.consumentenbond.nl/betaalrekening/meerderheid-bewaart-rekeningafschriften-ten-minste-5-jaar.
 Additional information: this is included in Article 9 of the GDPR and in Article 22 of the Dutch GDPR implementation Act. In short, processing sensitive personal data is unlawful, with a few exceptions. See (in Dutch) https://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0040940/2018-05-25.
New Round in Privacy Fight Between Dutch Railways and Passenger
A train passenger has submitted an enforcement request to the Dutch Data Protection Authority, because he argues that Dutch Railways (NS) violates the privacy of train passengers.
In response to three new attempts by Dutch Railways (NS) to violate the privacy of train passengers, NS customer Michiel Jonker has submitted a request for enforcement to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA). It concerns:
- Rejecting the reimbursement of the remaining balance on anonymous public transport chip cards if the holder does not provide his or her name and address data to NS;
- Refusing international train tickets by NS employees at station desks if buyers do not provide their name and address data to NS;
- Charging, since 2 July 2018, additional "service costs" when holders of anonymous public transport chip cards pay in cash for topping up the balance on these cards.
Since July 2014, NS has already launched attacks on the privacy of Dutch train passengers in various ways. It then concerned:
- Discriminating holders of anonymous public transport chip cards in discount hours;
- Requiring de-anonymization of the anonymous public transport chip cards when NS is asked to provide services (for example, reimbursing money in the event of delays);
- Applying two unique card numbers on each anonymous OV chip card, as a result of which the anonymity of these cards is affected.
As a traveler who wants to maintain his privacy, Jonker repeatedly asked the DPA to investigate these violations and to take enforcement measures. Jonker already won several lawsuits against the DPA, which initially refused to even investigate the reports.
The recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will play an important role in the assessment of the new violations by NS. Another central issue will be the right to pay by cash, which protects privacy.
Jonker: "In all these matters, the question is whether users of Dutch public transport are entitled to a real, effective protection of their privacy. This question is more relevant than ever, when you see how people are treated in situations where privacy is not adequately protected. We don't only think about China with its Social Credit score, or the United States with their "No Fly" lists, but also about European countries where laws have been adopted in recent years that allow the government to spy on travelers who are not even suspected of any punishable or risky behavior. For example France with its permanent state of emergency and the Netherlands with its new Intelligence and Security Act."
In this new case, Jonker is supported by Privacy First and Maatschappij voor Beter OV.
Source: https://www.liberties.eu/en/news/ns-privacy-fight-passenger-privacy/15444, 25 July 2018.
Privacy quality label for PSD2 in the making
During a Dutch press meeting about the new Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2), an initiative to launch a privacy quality label for payment services was announced. This quality label should encourage financial service providers and fintech companies to focus on the privacy of consumers.
If you struggle to make ends meet, sooner or later you will get physical complaints, two Utrecht physicians wrote in Dutch newspaper AD/Utrechts Nieuwsblad of 7 March 2018. Those who want to lead a healthy life, will first have to make sure they’re in a healthy financial position. Being in control of your own finances and all related data is a part of that. De Volksbank offers a helping hand in both these areas.
The new European Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2) paves the way for payment apps of new parties. Banks no longer have the exclusive right to offer payment services. This appears to be good news for consumers. But there is a downside too. Customers who share their data with any such new service provider, should take into account that part of those data are privacy-sensitive. A bank cannot recover such data once in the hands of other financial service providers, so the consumer cannot resort to anyone but himself if he regrets his decisions.
The Dutch Consumers' Association (Consumentenbond) has recently warned that personal data are already being collected on a large scale for commercial reasons. With the introduction of PSD2, this will only increase. Ninety days of access to personal information is sufficient for service providers to create digital profiles that can be traded. De Volksbank does not want to create profiles and is of the opinion that client information should be secure in the hands of the bank: ‘‘That means that we don’t sell information of clients, neither on an individual nor on an aggregated level. We earn our money as a bank, not by selling the data of our clients.'’
De Volksbank considers it to be its role of helping clients deal with their data in a secure and deliberate way in an environment that has changed. By providing information (free is never really free), but also by encouraging clients to take additional measures:
- When it comes to taking deliberate decisions on sharing data, clients should increase their self-awareness by operating a Main Switch. The default setting of the Main Switch should be ‘off’. Before a client is able to authorize the bank to share his data with third parties, he should first flick the Main Switch. The client should then authorize the sharing of data for each party. In so doing, he can stop sharing his data with any party at any moment. Alternatively, he can flick the Main Switch, blocking the access to his data of all parties in a single instant.
- In cooperation with De Volksbank, several other banks, KPMG and fintech companies, Privacy First is developing a PSD2 quality label. This should answer the call of the Central Bank of the Netherlands (DNB), which ascertained that as of yet there is no such quality label, while there is the need to have one. As far as we know, the Netherlands is the first country to be working on this issue. Thanks to the PSD2 quality label, consumers should at once be able to tell which parties they can or cannot entrust their data to. De Volksbank is working hard on further developing the quality label in order for it to be ready as soon as the Payment Service Directive 2 has been transposed into Dutch legislation.
The Privacy First Foundation supports the PSD2 privacy quality label. Privacy First would like it to become an international label which is recognized and supported by banks, fintech companies, financial service providers, regulators and consumer organizations.
PSD2 offers advantages, but also puts people’s privacy at risk. People are more than just consumers. Privacy First doubts whether the measures laid down in PSD2 to protect the data and therewith the privacy of people, will be sufficient. For the protection of personal data, PSD2 relies heavily on the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation has not yet come into force and we don’t know which effects PSD2 will have in practice and what the monitoring of it will look like. Many organizations are not yet ready to comply with all of the GDPR requirements. However, they will not hold off providing their services. In turn, regulators are not yet ready to enforce all aspects of the GDPR. Introducing PSD2 is like going out to fly without checking the parachute.
We hope that the quality label will encourage financial service providers and fintech companies to start considering consumers as human beings. We want the requirements of the label to be set higher each year. We also want service providers to consider the ‘information behind the information’:
- The disclosure of behavior and data by others
- Services with the underlying aim of collecting data (improper application)
- Deducting data, such as transaction data from which sensitive personal data can be deduced.
We call on fintech companies to continue to explore ways to limit the amounts of data they collect and store. Think of excluding transaction data that could indicate religion, political preference or health status. Limiting the retention period of transaction data is another measure to take into consideration.
This article has also been published on privacy-web.nl.