Bloomberg's top editor calls policy on client data 'inexcusable'
NEW YORK May 13 (Reuters) - Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, apologized on Monday for allowing journalists "limited" access to sensitive data about how clients used Bloomberg terminals, saying it was "inexcusable" but that important customer data had always been protected.
His statement came as the European Central Bank said it was in "close contact with Bloomberg" about any possible breaches in the confideniality of data usage. The U.S. Federal Reserve said it was examining whether there could have been leaks of confidential information. A source briefed on the situation said the Treasury Department was looking into the question as well.
The practice of giving reporters access to some data considered proprietary - including when a customer looked into broad categories such as equities or bonds - came to light in media reports last week. In response, the parent company, Bloomberg LP, said it had restricted such access last month after Goldman Sachs Group Inc complained.
Winkler, in an editorial posted on Bloomberg.com, said: "Our reporters should not have access to any data considered proprietary. I am sorry they did. The error is inexcusable."
Goldman flagged the matter to Bloomberg after the bank found that journalists had access to more information than it had known and argued the information was sensitive and should not be seen by reporters.
The news triggered fears at Wall Street firms about the privacy of sensitive data, as well as at the Fed and other U.S. government departments that use Bloomberg terminals.
In the editorial, Winkler sought to clarify what exactly Bloomberg journalists could see. He said they had access to a user's login history, as well as "high-level types of user functions on an aggregated basis, with no ability to look into specific security information."
He said the practice dates back to the early days of Bloomberg News in the 1990s, when reporters used the terminal to find out what kind of news coverage customers wanted.
"As data privacy has become a central concern to our clients, we should go above and beyond in protecting data, especially when we have even the appearance of impropriety," Winkler wrote. "And that's why we've made these recent changes to what reporters can access." Continued...