Bloomberg LP customers, including the US Federal Reserve and the US Department of the Treasury, were examining on Saturday whether there could have been leaks of confidential information, even as the media company restricted its reporters’ access to client data and created a position to oversee compliance in a bid to assuage privacy concerns.
The financial data and news company, whose computer terminals are widely used on Wall Street, had allowed journalists to see some information about terminal usage, including when customers had last logged in and how often they used messaging or looked up data on broad categories, such as equities or bonds.
Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff said in a statement on Friday that the firm restricted reporters’ access last month after a client complained.
The client, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, flagged the matter to Bloomberg after a news service reporter in Hong Kong asked the bank about a partner’s employment status, saying that the person had not logged on in some time.
Goldman found that journalists had access to far more information than the bank had known was available to them, complaining that the information was sensitive and should not be seen by reporters.
“Having recognized this mistake, we took immediate action,” Doctoroff said in the statement posted on Bloomberg’s blog.
He said the company had created a position of client data compliance officer to ensure its news operations never have access to confidential customer data. He added that even under the previous policy, Bloomberg reporters could not see which particular news stories clients had read, or which specific securities they viewed.
Bloomberg has about 2,400 journalists worldwide.
While some said the concerns were overstated, the news triggered fears about privacy of sensitive data at Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co as well as at the Fed and some US government departments that use Bloomberg terminals.
“We are looking into this situation and have been in touch with Bloomberg to learn more,” a Federal Reserve spokeswoman said on Saturday.
A source briefed on the situation said the US Department of the Treasury was also looking into the matter.
Senior Goldman executives said that while the information Bloomberg reporters had was limited, a trader could easily make money just by knowing what type of securities some high-profile users were looking at, or what questions a government official raised with Bloomberg’s help desk, people with direct knowledge of their views said.
They also began to worry about who else had access to such information. The issue made people inside the bank uncomfortable, even with Bloomberg’s marketing and sales team’s access to information, they said.
For instance, if a trader pulls up quotes for a certain type of security several times, sometimes a message pops up from Bloomberg customer support staff offering other products and functions that might be useful. While this was once seen as a common practice, it has started to make traders uncomfortable about who has access to their personal information, the sources said.
Bloomberg cited Doctoroff’s statement on Friday and declined to comment further.
Privately held Bloomberg gets the bulk of its revenue from terminal sales to financial institutions. The company has more than 315,000 terminal subscribers globally, with each Bloomberg terminal costing more than US$20,000 a year. Last year, it posted revenue of US$7.9 billion.