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Privacy and data protection

Privacy and data protection

Discretion, confidentiality and data protection are and will remain core competencies of Swiss banking. Here is an overview of the relevant legal provisions in Switzerland as well as current developments.

Current developments

 

Data protection

The protection of privacy is a human need. According to Art. 13 of the Swiss Federal Constitution, every person therefore has the right to privacy in their private and family life and in their home, and in relation to their mail and telecommunications and – in the broader sense – the right to be protected against the misuse of their personal data.

In our increasingly digital world, data determine our lives, at all times and everywhere. Once saved, information remains on the Internet for a very long time and can therefore potentially also be used for purposes that do not correspond with the wishes of the user. Companies as well as private individuals therefore have a strong interest in knowing that the protection of their data is respected and ensured. Particularly banks, which can look back on a long tradition of discretion and confidentiality, are aware that detailed information about a person’s financial situation is among the most sensitive that can be disclosed.

Data protection law

In Switzerland, the Federal Act on Data Protection (FADP) protects the privacy and the fundamental rights of natural and legal persons when their data is processed. It sets out the requirements for permissible data processing in accordance with the rule of law and therefore protects against possible abuses. It lays down the principle that not more client-related information than required may be collected (principle of proportionality and data minimisation).

Data protection aims to protect the right to informational self-determination. This refers to the concept that every citizen should be able to determine for themselves the disclosure and the use of their own data. The data protection law therefore gives citizens various possibilities for exercising their privacy rights.

 

Bank-client confidentiality

Bank-client confidentiality (Art. 47 of the Banking Act) is comparable to the professional duty of confidentiality and as such, equivalent to that of doctors or lawyers. It aims to protect financial privacy and protects all conclusions of fact, value judgements and other information (including personal evaluation results) that can be attributed to a bank customer. Bank-client confidentiality therefore goes further than the data protection law. Contrary to a widely held belief, however, it does not apply without limitation. Criminals in particular are not protected by bank-client confidentiality, which was introduced in 1934. For

  • civil proceedings (for example pertaining to inheritances or divorces),
  • debt recovery and forced liquidation proceedings,
  • criminal proceedings (particularly also in the case of tax fraud),
  • proceedings by the supervisory authority, as well as
  • proceedings relating to the cross-border exchange of information,

the banks have since been required to disclose information about customers. Nevertheless, bank-client confidentiality has in recent years – particularly as it relates to tax matters – undergone a far-reaching transformation. Driven by developments at the international level, greater importance has also been given to transparency in Switzerland vis-à-vis tax and supervisory authorities.