Securing Your Finances Online: Understanding the Impact of FTC's New Rules and the Advent of Open Banking

The digital world is seeing a significant overhaul in how companies deal with our finances and sensitive information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is stepping up with fresh regulations to enhance safety and openness for all who engage in online transactions. However, these advancements reveal considerable challenges, particularly when compared to another game-changing initiative by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This initiative, known as "open banking," encourages a more flexible flow of customers' financial data, all while trying to beef up security protocols. It's becoming clear that there are crucial details that need ironing out, especially concerning the protection of our personal data and establishing clear accountability in cases of security breaches.

New Reporting Rules:

  • What's Changed? Companies not directly related to banking but still dealing with our money now have to quickly report any data breaches where our information might be stolen. They must tell the authorities within a month if this happens to a large group (500 or more) of customers.
  • But Here's the Catch: Only significant breaches are focused on; smaller ones might slip through. Also, waiting a month to hear about a theft is too long - we could be at risk during that time.

Sharing Our Financial Data:

  • What's Open Banking? A new system proposed will let us share our financial data with other money management apps if we want to. It should give us more options, but it also means our information is shared more widely.
  • The Good News: They plan to stop a risky way of sharing data called 'screen scraping' (like giving away the password to your online banking) and use a safer method instead.
  • The Tricky Part: If our data gets stolen or misused while being shared, it needs to be clarified who should be responsible - the bank or the app we were using?

New Rules for Certain Money Companies:

  • What's Happening? The rules now say that companies that collect our data (called "data aggregators") are now to be classified as credit reporting companies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. They will now be considered in the same category as businesses that oversee our credit scores. Because of this change, these data-collecting companies must follow strict guidelines to ensure they're handling our personal information correctly.
  • Why It Matters: This is a big deal because it means these companies have a lot of new rules to follow, which is good for consumers because it should keep our data safer.
  • But There's a Debate: Banks say these new rules don't treat everyone equally. They believe that all companies, including the tech-savvy ones, should have the same responsibility and oversight to ensure nobody takes shortcuts with our data.

What Needs to Happen Next:

  • Even Rules for Everyone: All companies, big banks, or small app developers must follow the same strict rules to keep our data safe.
  • Safer Ways to Share Information: If consumers share our banking information, that process needs to be secure. Also, getting rid of 'screen scraping' should happen immediately, not slowly over time.
  • Helping Us Understand Our Choices: We often need help knowing exactly what we agree to when we click 'OK' for apps to use our data. Companies need to make sure they're not taking advantage of that.

While these new rules are a step forward in protecting our financial information and giving us more freedom, there's more work to do. We need to ensure that everyone handling our data meets the highest standards and that we know how our information is used or what happens if things go wrong. This is crucial for maintaining trust in managing money in the digital world.


David Mundy