Is the Privacy of our Personal Financial Affairs Under Threat?

There is a growing wave of disquiet over the spread of information exchange involving the private financial affairs of U.K. citizens.

Currently, information concerning individuals’ management and movement of their own money is coming under increasing threat of disclosure thanks to institutions such as the OECD and their CRS (Common Reporting Standard).

The digital age is here to stay, and in the space of little more than two decades has woven itself deep into the fabric of everyday life, including business and financial affairs. The current year 2016 is shaping up to potentially prove a pivotal moment in the perennial struggle between the right to privacy and the endless calls for regulatory oversight.

In the U.K. the Investigatory Powers Bill is being debated, revised and amended in parliament, where it is expected to become law in due course, much to the disgust of certain vocal protest groups.

Elsewhere, similar dynamics are currently being played out in a keenly followed dispute between the FBI and Apple. Such processes are just the tip of the iceberg, so watch this space.

Where do we draw the line?

Granted, we live in unusual times, and there are certainly going to be occasions when we may have to temporarily forego our dearly-held freedom and privacy. However, the freedoms of the West are, of course, precisely the reason it should be protected from agencies such as terrorist groups in the first place.

There is therefore a carefully considered line to be drawn in each instance; between the inalienable right to privacy on one hand, and the need for national security on the other. The diplomatically inclined might call this ‘creative tension’, and one hopes that government and overarching supranational bodies such as the OECD will be dexterous enough not to fumble the ball and sign away all of our hard-won freedoms with heavy-handed legislation such as the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’ or the aforementioned CRS.

It is of some temporary succour that the current EU Charters enshrine the individual’s right to privacy, especially when those in question largely comprise tax-compliant and law-abiding citizens. An individual’s right to establish trusts and foundations without laying open the books for the OECD must remain intact.

Furthermore, there is a clear argument that the beneficiaries of trusts, often the young or otherwise vulnerable, provide no clear threat to national security, and moreover, that any moves to render the financial affairs of such entities indiscriminately transparent run counter to the very reason they exist in the first place.