The editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News apologized Monday for the financial news service’s practice of accessing private data on clients through the company’s information service.
Journalists at Bloomberg News, until recently, had been able to see when clients last accessed their Bloomberg information terminals and what broad categories of functions they used. Goldman Sachs had complained that a Bloomberg reporter was using the information to investigate if a Goldman employee had departed.
“Our client is right,” editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler said in an online posting Monday. “Our reporters should not have access to any data considered proprietary. I am sorry they did. The error is inexcusable.”
The Federal Reserve is looking into whether Bloomberg journalists tracked data about terminal usage by top Fed officials. In a brief statement Monday, the European Central Bank said it “takes the protection of confidentiality very seriously and our experts are in close contact with Bloomberg.”
Bloomberg journalists are renowned for aggressive techniques in a competitive field. Bloomberg News is owned by Bloomberg LP, a private company controlled by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg LP’s main business is selling terminals to clients in the financial industry, and it employs more than 2,400 journalists.
Bloomberg News reporters had been able to see when any of the company’s 315,000 paying subscribers had last logged into the service. They could also view the types of “functions” individual subscribers had accessed.
For instance, reporters could see if subscribers had been looking at top news stories, or if they had been gathering data on stocks or bonds, but not which stories or bonds and stocks they had looked up, according to Bloomberg LP spokesman Ty Trippet. He said reporters could also see if subscribers were using “message” or “chat” functions to send messages to each other over the terminals, but not the recipient of the messages or their content. Reporters were mostly getting contact information for subscribers, such as telephone numbers and email addresses, Trippet said.
Bloomberg cut journalists off from this type of access last month, after the Goldman complaint. In the posting Monday, Winkler drew a distinction between this type of data and “important” customer data, which he said has not been compromised.