Bloomberg Reporters Had Full Access To Customer Usage Logs, Including Help Transcript Logs

from the privacy-policy dept

This one is fairly incredible. Bloomberg LP's main business is selling ridiculously expensive terminals to Wall Street/financial folks for tracking market information. While I understood why they were able to succeed early on, I've been shocked that the internet hasn't seriously disrupted their business over the past decade or so. However, the company also has a pretty big journalism business as well (even owning Business Week, which it bought for pennies a few years ago). Now it's coming out that the journalists at Bloomberg had all sorts of access to how customers use the terminals.

Until recently, all Bloomberg employees could access information about when and how terminals were used by any customer. But after complaints by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Bloomberg says its 2,000 or so journalists no longer have access to that information, though other staff still do. Bloomberg has more than 15,000 employees.

The banks were concerned that Bloomberg News was keeping tabs on terminal usage in order to aid its reporting. JP Morgan specifically cited coverage of the bank’s disastrous derivatives trading, known as the “London Whale,” which Bloomberg was the first to reveal.

Incredibly, the reporters also had access to "help" transcripts of any customer and could call them at will, which apparently some of them did for fun.
Several former Bloomberg employees say colleagues would look up chat transcripts of famous customers, like Alan Greenspan, for amusement on slow workdays. The transcripts were typically mundane and hardly incriminating, but who wouldn’t enjoy watching a former US Treasury secretary struggle to use a computer? And, in theory, the substance of someone’s query to customer service could reveal specific information that he’s interested in, tipping off a reporter to a story.
These are the kinds of things that small companies sometimes screw up with poor controls over information. But a massive company like Bloomberg -- especially when it deals with critical financial information -- you would think would have much tighter controls on information. I'd be curious if this violates whatever privacy policies Bloomberg has with its customers. At the very least, it should make Bloomberg customers pretty damn skeptical of continuing to use their terminals. Seems like a huge opportunity for competitors with better controls to step in.

Filed Under: bloomberg terminals, controls, information, journalism, privacy, reporters
Companies: bloomberg, goldman sachs, jp morgan


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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 13 May 2013 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re:

    The logs should not be accessible outside the company, but there is great value to having them available to a large segment of the company internally. For example, I am currently employed by a major company as a software developer. About half my workload is fixing bugs that have been reported from customers.

    Being able to read the logs and notes from tech support is frequently of great use to me. There are often nuggets of information in them that didn't seem important to anyone at the moment, but turn out to be critical clues.

    Often, these are in cases that on the surface do not appear related to the specific case I'm working. If I were unable to have free access to all of these records, it would greatly reduce my working efficiency -- and occasionally would prevent me from fixing a problem at all.

    However, I also am bound to a strict NDA, and I am forbidden from revealing any information about cases or the identity of customers to anyone outside the company. Doing so would cost me my job and perhaps expose me to a lawsuit. This is as it should be.

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