Bloomberg Data Terminal May Have Violated User Privacy

By on May 14, 2013

Members of the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and several financial institutions are examining whether the use of their Bloomberg terminals exposed them to a potential privacy breach.

Bloomberg News, the worldwide news organization founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, disclosed recently that its news reporters used the company’s financial data terminals to uncover personal data about subscribers, including financial professional and other executives.

The financial data company said the practice — which seems to have been occurred regularly for many years— was used to retrieve information such as log-in and contact information of its data-services clients.  The company emphasized that its employees did not have an entry to private information held by clients, such as financial transactions or merger and acquisition targets.

In a note posted on Bloomberg’s website, CEO Daniel Doctoroff acknowledged the blunder: “Although we have long made limited customer relationship data available to our journalists, we realize this was a mistake.”

However, Bloomberg said it was unaware of any instances where reporters used information directly accessed from a customer’s terminal account.  Financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have expressed alarm over Bloomberg’s practices.

The potential security violation first came to light after a Bloomberg reporter in Hong Kong questioned Goldman Sachs executives whether an employee had resigned, since he or she did not log in to the terminal in several weeks.  According to a person familiar with this matter, Bloomberg had contacted JPMorgan Chase several times to inquire whether employees left the firm.  A few of those calls focused on trader Bruno Iksil, nicknamed the “London Whale,” who became known as the man responsible for the $6 billion trading loss at the company last year.

The Federal Reserve Bank and the Treasury Department have contacted Bloomberg to ask about the nature and extent of the possible breach, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.