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Bloomberg top editor: We goofed on privacy

Bloomberg's Matthew Winkler, left, in conversation with former Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou (Greek official photo)
Bloomberg’s Matthew Winkler, left, in conversation with former Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou (Greek official photo)

Bloomberg’s top editorial boss admits the company screwed up.

After news broke late last week that journalists at Bloomberg had been misappropriating information with the hopes of breaking news, the company removed a “feature” from its prized financial terminals that allowed reporters to access login information and search records of Bloomberg financial data clients.

Among those affected by the privacy breech were banks like Goldman Sachs and, according to at least one report, notable figures in the financial world including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

(Read: Breaking down the Bloomberg terminal scandal)

In an article published early Monday morning, Bloomberg news editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler said the company allowed reporters to access “a user’s login history and when a login was created” along with “high-level type of user functions on an aggregated basis.” Winkler says this kind of access would be akin to someone being able to see how many times a person “used Microsoft Word vs. Excel.”

Winkler admits allowing journalists this level of access to client information, however mundane, was a mistake.

“Our client is right,” Winkler wrote. “Our reporters should not have had access to any data considered proprietary. I am sorry they did. The error is inexcusable.”

Questions arose over how long Bloomberg journalists had access to seemingly proprietary client information. BuzzFeed’s Peter Lauria reported over the weekend that the company had been allowing reporters to access the information since at least 2011 when a journalist was reprimanded internally for commenting on the feature during a news program aired on Bloomberg TV.

But Winkler says the feature has been available to reporter for a longer period of time than that.

“The recent complaints go to practices that are almost as old as Bloomberg News,” Winkler said, adding that reporters used to approach clients about the kinds of stories they were interested in when Bloomberg was developing its budding news operation in the early 1990s.

Bloomberg’s rival Thomson Reuters said late last week that its editorial operation, Reuters News, and its financial terminal Eikon, which competes with the Bloomberg terminal, were run separately. A spokeswoman for Thomson Reuters says journalists at Reuters News do not have access to the information of its financial terminal clients.

Bloomberg: Holding ourselves accountable
BuzzFeed: Bloomberg knew for years journalists were tracking clients

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).