Bloomberg Apologises Over ‘Inexcusable’ Access To Client Information

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

After a complaint from Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg says it is sorry it let workers access data on clients to guide news coverage

Bloomberg News has admitted some of its journalists could access client information from terminals used for market updates, after claims employees used the data to guide their coverage and chase leads.

Goldman Sachs had complained about the practice last month, leading Bloomberg to change its policy.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the investment banking firm became concerned when a Bloomberg reporter, contacted them to investigate what she believed was the departure of a Goldman employee. Her interest had apparently been sparked because the worker had not accessed a Bloomberg terminal for a number of weeks, AP reported.

For Bloomberg’s journalists to access this information would be a breach of customer privacy, Goldman complained.

bloomberg_newsThe Federal Reserve is also looking into whether Bloomberg journalists tracked terminal data of government officials.

Bloomberg apology

Bloomberg admitted its journalists could view a client’s login history and when a login was created, as well as information on help desk inquiries. They could also see “high-level types of user functions on an aggregated basis”, something “akin to being able to see how many times someone used Microsoft Word vs. Excel”.

But accessing this information was a practice “almost as old as Bloomberg News”, said Matthew Winkler, editor in chief of Bloomberg News. Reporters did not have access to trading or portfolio data of clients.

“Since the 1990s, some reporters have used the terminal to obtain, as the Washington Post reported, ‘mundane’ facts such as log-on information,” Winkler added.

“There was good reason for this, as our reporters used to go to clients in the early days of the company and ask them what topics they wanted to see covered. Understanding how clients used the terminal was more important then.

“We still do that today, which is why we have feedback tabs on our news-related terminal functions.”

Despite the explanation, Winkler offered an apology. “Our client is right. Our reporters should not have access to any data considered proprietary. I am sorry they did. The error is inexcusable,” he added.

“As we’ve grown, and as data privacy has become a central concern to our clients, we should go above and beyond in protecting data, especially when we have even the appearance of impropriety.

“We apologise for our error as it does not reflect on our culture or our heritage.”

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