Bloomberg editor apologizes for violating client privacy

Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News.

To what extent could Bloomberg news reporters keep tabs on Bloomberg's financial industry customers? Late Sunday night the editor-in-chief of Bloomberg apologized for a long-standing newsroom practice of allowing reporters access to some private client information it gets through its widely used financial data terminals.

The apology was prompted by a recent incident where a Bloomberg reporter approached someone working at investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, asking about whether one of the bank's partners still worked there. In the conversation, the reporter pointed out that the partner hadn't logged on to his Bloomberg terminal lately. 

That sort of detailed information of employee habits worried Goldman Sachs executives, who filed a complaint last month with Bloomberg. 

Since then, Bloomberg News has acknowledged that for years, journalists have been able to monitor when the company’s more than 315,000 subscribers — everyone from finance executives and hedge fund managers to Central Banks and the U.S. Federal Reserve — are logged onto a Bloomberg financial terminal, and what types functions they have looked at. Reporters could not see specific topics or articles that subscribers had viewed. 

“It's just really creepy,” says Andrew Beaujon, who reports on the media for Poynter Online. “People don't like being spied on.  It’s sort of like finding out someone’s got the number of times you looked at an ex’s photos on Facebook.”

Data privacy concerns have been a big issue for consumers lately, says Ben Rose, a media and technology analyst at the stock research company Battle Road. But, he says, “I don't think anyone had an idea that this might be going on in the financial realm.” 

Matthew Winkler, the editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News has apologized for giving reporters limited access to subscriber information, calling it an “inexcusable” error, and the access to reporters has been cut off.  Bloomberg has also appointed a senior executive to a new role known as "Client Data Compliance Officer."

Rose expects other financial data companies like Bloomberg will take similar steps, “to assure their clients that they’re not being snooped on in any way shape or form.”

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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