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Bloomberg blocks journalists from client data and admits to 'mistake' on privacy

Global news and financial data agency blocks journalists from monitoring client login activity after complaint about reporter in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 May, 2013, 10:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 May, 2016, 2:05pm

Bloomberg has barred its journalists from monitoring clients' login activity on its trading information terminals.

The financial data and news provider's chief executive Daniel Doctoroff said a "mistake" in its news gathering policies had been corrected.

Goldman Sachs complained after a Bloomberg reporter in Hong Kong asked the bank about a partner's employment status.

The reporter noted that the person had not logged on to a terminal for some time.

Goldman said such information was sensitive and should not be seen by journalists.

As the scandal grew, the US Federal Reserve sought information about potential access by the news agency's reporters to data about users of Bloomberg terminals at the US central bank.

Reports claimed login information relating to Fed chief Ben Bernanke and former treasury secretary Tim Geithner had been accessed.

Top-level regulators and researchers at the People's Bank of China and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange also use Bloomberg terminals, sources close to the regulators said.

Goldman's reaction apparently came as a surprise to Bloomberg and the bank's rivals.

A function allowing the agency's reporters and sales staff to track a terminal user's online status, contact details, employment record and related particulars has existed for years.

Bloomberg has 315,000 subscribers, mostly stock and bond traders, who pay an average of more than US$20,000 a year.

Goldman was not the first bank to receive such a call from a Bloomberg journalist asking about an employee's status.

Other banks, such as JPMorgan and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch had received similar requests, industry executives familiar with these matters said.

"A Bloomberg reporter called me last year and asked me if I'd left the bank, because the reporter didn't see me log into Bloomberg for a while. I was, in fact, just busy with some business trips, so I didn't log in for some weeks," said a banker with JPMorgan.

"Now I am wondering how many such cases have happened and how much personal information was leaked to the press in this way," said the banker, who declined to be named.

David Schlesinger, managing director of Tripod Advisors, a Hong Kong-based independent consultancy, said: "Bloomberg's particular bad luck is that this story has become big at a time when people around the world are much more aware of and sensitive to privacy concerns.

"Where this case seems to have crossed a line is in providing reporters access at the individual and company level. That should be confidential. In other words, knowing that users in Asia are reading a particular story is important and useful information.

"Knowing I myself am logged in and reading a story is my own business and no one else's."

Several Bloomberg editors and reporters confirmed the incident occurred in Hong Kong last month. The story was first reported by the New York Post. A Bloomberg spokesman could not be reached last night.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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