What do highways and bridges have to do with consumer privacy notices? Nothing, that is, until two weeks ago.

Earlier this month, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act or “FAST Act”, a bill providing long-term funding for transportation projects. But, buried deep in the legislation – on page 476 of 490 – is Section 75001 titled “Exception to Annual Privacy Notice Requirement under the Gramm Leach Bliley Act.” 

The Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA) and its implementing regulations require financial institutions to provide consumers with initial, annual and revised privacy notices describing the information sharing practices of the company (which we have discussed here).  In some instances, companies are required to give consumers the right to “opt-out” of information sharing.  Companies have long complained that sending annual privacy notices is expensive, difficult, wasteful, and without much benefit to consumers.  Hearing the complaints, just last year, the CFPB eased the regulatory burden by allowing companies that meet the requirements to post annual privacy notices online. 

The FAST Act now takes the additional step of entirely eliminating the annual privacy notice requirement for some companies.

Under the FAST Act, a financial institution no longer must deliver an annual privacy notice if: (1) it only shares consumer information within the GLBA listed exceptions (i.e., the company does not give a GLBA opt-out right), and (2) it has not changed its information sharing practices from its most recent privacy form sent to consumers.   

This new exception only applies to the annual privacy notice, not the initial notice that is typically given at the beginning of the transaction; nonetheless, this will make life easier, and cheaper, for many in the financial services industry. 

The law became effective immediately upon passage, but the CFPB (and other federal agencies) will need to amend their respective regulations to include this exception.

So, next time you drive on a freshly paved highway, think about consumer privacy notices.