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Bloomberg Reporters Caught Spying On Terminal Users 55

Posted by timothy
from the hot-reading-vs-cold dept.
theodp writes "Big Bloomberg is watching you. CNN reports that was the unsettling realization Goldman Sachs execs came to a few weeks ago when a Bloomberg reporter inadvertently revealed that reporters from the news and financial data provider had surveillance capabilities over users of Bloomberg terminals. 'Limited customer relationship data has long been available to our journalists,' acknowledged a Bloomberg spokesman. 'In light of [Goldman's] concern as well as a general heightened sensitivity to data access, we decided to disable journalist access to this customer relationship information for all clients.' Business Insider is now reporting on allegations that Bloomberg reporters used terminals to spy on JPMorgan during the 'London Whale' disaster; Bloomberg bragged about its leadership on this story."
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Bloomberg Reporters Caught Spying On Terminal Users

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 11, 2013 @08:33AM (#43694133)

    I would like to welcome Wall Street and banking institutions (and the financial branches of several governments) to what web consumers have faced for years --- surreptitious tracking without consent, without knowledge, and without any concern for consequences. How does it feel to be treated like a raw material rather than a customer?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We used to warn people not to use some company's Whois web interface to check for available domains, because any good names that you typed into that interface would be registered shortly after, "to reserve them for the prospective client".

    • This surprises me.

      The Bloomberg terminal can be used as a trading platform and used to analyze your portfolio (in particular, for big money managers) – so it has a lot of material non-public information. The contracts that you sign with Bloomberg covers that non-public information will not be used by Bloomberg.

      I wonder exactly Bloomberg reporters had. From the article it sound like the only info they had was who had a terminal and when the last time they logged on – but I wonder if it was more?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I was once called by a Bloomberg reporter who wanted a comment on the movement of a particularly thinly traded security that I owned. I asked her how she knew to call me, and she replied that I ran news and analytics on that specific ticker regularly on my Bloomberg terminal.

      It makes me wonder how often I was front-run by Bloomberg reporters or their cronies over the years.

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        I was once called by a Bloomberg reporter who wanted a comment on the movement of a particularly thinly traded security that I owned. I asked her how she knew to call me, and she replied that I ran news and analytics on that specific ticker regularly on my Bloomberg terminal.

        It makes me wonder how often I was front-run by Bloomberg reporters or their cronies over the years.

        Blooter did what?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why wasn't there a firewall (in the non-technical sense) between these two sides of the company? Imagine if Google's investment unit used data from user queries to drive their financial decisions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The only shocking aspect is that you think Google is not using the information from user queries for financial gain.

      • It doesn't matter how extensively Google uses user data internally. Almost none of their users are paying for the services they use. Bloomberg subscribers, on the other hand, are paying a pretty penny for each terminal. A degree of privacy is a reasonable expectation.

        • It doesn't matter how extensively Google uses user data internally.

          I have a friend who is a VC, runs a fund with about $500M in assets. He competes with google ( www.googleventures.com ). Yet he uses google's products as an integral part of his workflow, both "free" for his personal stuff and paid services for work. I've pointed out to him that this leaves him terribly exposed should someone at google be less than scrupulous - and with a company as big as google it is inevitable that there are less than scrupulous people working there. He's got both the risk of google

        • by Cederic (9623)

          It doesn't matter how extensively Google uses user data internally.

          It does in Europe, with various data protection law type things causing complications.

    • by cold fjord (826450) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @08:59AM (#43694253)

      This wasn't spying between two different sides of one company. This was someone in the Bloomberg corporation who was able to spy on people in Goldman Sachs corporation - two different companies. It isn't clear that you could firewall this as it seems to be covert functionality built into the software.

      Keep in mind that this is the company started by the current mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. That is the same Mayor Bloomberg that tried to limit the size of sodas in New York City to 16 oz. [townhall.com], and started the scandal ridden "Mayors against Guns [saf.org]."

      Although John Stewart said this about the soda ban, I'm thinking it might have wider application.

      "combines the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect." -- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That is the same Mayor Bloomberg that tried to limit the size of sodas in New York City to 16 oz

        "Conservatives" shouldn't be up in arms about that, after all there is absolutely nothing different between this and the federal government preventing you from smoking something you found in your back yard, except for the fact that the mayor doesn't have a federal Constitution telling him what he can and can't do.

        Both bans are:

        * for your own good
        * because we don't want to have to pay for the users
        * because when w

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That is the same Mayor Bloomberg that tried to limit the size of sodas in New York City to 16 oz

          "Conservatives" shouldn't be up in arms about that, after all there is absolutely nothing different between this and the federal government preventing you from smoking something you found in your back yard, except ...

          Wait, a sec. Your talking about weed, right? There's weed growing behind my house? I'll be right back. afk

          • Wait till October you moron.

            • by Khyber (864651)

              Learn what an autoflower is, moron.

              • Wrong and calling someone else a moron?

                • by Khyber (864651)

                  Autoflowers don't flower depending upon photoperiod (and I just had my outdoor harvest two weeks ago - BEGINNING OF MAY - North America.) Learn what cannabis ruderalis is. It flowers upon age, unlike Cannabis sativa and indica.

                  You're still wrong. Trying to argue with a professional and licensed cannabis breeder. It's hilarious.

      • `the same Mayor Bloomberg that tried to limit the size of sodas in New York City to 16 oz. [townhall.com], and started the scandal ridden "Mayors against Guns [saf.org]."'

        Yea, without huge-sodas and the ability to blow away your neighbours, America would have fallen to those commie-liberal-bastards a long time ago.
      • by samkass (174571)

        The poster to which you're replying was talking about a firewall between the Bloomberg financial/market group and the Bloomberg News group.

      • No, it's two different groups at the same company.

        You have the terminal side, whose job is to generate research for portfolio managers.

        You have the news side, whose job is to generate research / journalism for the general public.

        There is overlap between the two – they both do research - and, as the article points out, this can cause a huge conflict of interest. If portfolio manager's don't expect Bloomberg to keep their information confidential they would drop the terminal service (at least 20k a year

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Man you gun nuts stretch things to insane limits.

        So let me recap,
        John Stewart condemned Mayor Bloombergs big soda ban.
        Mayor Bloomberg ALSO doesn't like guns (which is not surprising in a gun crime riddled city).
        You apply John's comment to Bloomberg's anti-gun stance (to which it doesn't apply, except that you want it to).
        You then point out that Bloomberg founded Bloomberg.com, the trading and financial data company.

        So you did a very tiresome long winding way into promoting guns.

        Great, but how many people di

        • by moj0joj0 (1119977)

          Great, but how many people died of gun crime while you were telling that story? 2? 5?

          I'm not sure about guns, but it seems that at least 1 died [bbc.co.uk] from an ice pick rampage, and 40 died [reuters.com] from car bombs...

          People will kill each other, that is the nature of humanity. Violent crime was a huge problem before guns, it is a problem now and will be a problem in the future.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are you serious? I'm not a fan of Bloomberg, but he doesn't run the company anymore and hasn't done so for years.

        Do you realize that you can still buy 32 ounces of soda? You just need to buy two. And you can still buy cigarettes, but you'll have to pay the taxes to do so. I'm a doctor in the Bronx, and those decisions don't limit choice but encourage better behavior. And let me tell you, Americans (especially those in the Bronx) are way too overweight.

        Scandal-ridden? Give me a fucking break. Not everyone wa

  • Is there irony here? (Score:5, Informative)

    by slimdave (710334) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @08:49AM (#43694207)
    Banks are presumably outraged at the lack of Chinese walls between Bloomberg's technology provision and their journalism.

    Are they equally concerned about failures of the Chinese wall between, say, the corporate advisory arm of a bank and the investment division?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/weekinreview/13segal.html [nytimes.com]

    One suspects not.

  • The title says it all.

  • Always knew those cheeky Bloomberg staffers admired my sweet .bash.rc and my fancy PS1! No wonder they were spying on me!!!
  • You mean that they had the ability to expose massive, economy breaking fraud!? Can't have that.

    Give Bloomberg a medal for this. I say they should be able to put video and audio bugs on their terminals. After all, these banks have nothing to hide, right? Except, you know, for LIBOR manipulation, municipal bond market manipulation, commodity price manipulation, VIX manipulation, currency manipulation, monetary policy manipulation, collusion with central banks, bribing public officials, money laundering
    • When the inside of computer code, not just built in access to a program, becomes known to an inside coder who decides to go rogue, you get...the $45 million heist from ATMs that just occurred. Is the 'Bloomberg Break In' any different?

      Dozens of articles on Slashdot over the last 12 months concern various security flaws and the dozens of ways they are subverted.

      There is a real question as to whether keepers of large databases and their executions can be kept safe doing it the way it has been done to date.

      Wh

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @09:36AM (#43694473) Homepage

    not even really shocking. That did the journalists have access to? When someone was on or offline. OMFG! Think of what you can do with that. They also had access to what functions they were using. I'm sure the journalists were elated to know that a bond trader at GS was using the Bloomstink terminal to price bonds.

    "But as it turned out, what the subscribers were doing was not always confidential. Bloomberg reporters used the "Z function" — a command using the letter Z and a company's name — to view a list of subscribers at a firm. Then, a Bloomberg user could click on a subscriber's name, which would take the user to a function called UUID. The UUID function then provided background on an individual subscriber, including contact information, when the subscriber had last logged on, chat information between subscribers and customer service representatives, and weekly statistics on how often they used a particular function. A company spokesman said both of those functions had been disabled in the newsroom. "

    • by sshir (623215)
      It amuses me that in this day and age there are people who don't understand the value of information.

      Look, data does not exist in it's own universe. There are practically always ways to crosscheck, merge with data from other sources, do all kinds of clever shit.

      For this case, from the top of my head: check peoples movements, check for activity correlation between different companies (indication of an upcoming big deal), assess company's health, etc, etc.
  • by tpjunkie (911544) on Saturday May 11, 2013 @10:10AM (#43694705) Journal
    This is not really news. The terminal has an instant messenger application built into it. If you have a buddy list with the users in question in it, you can see without doing ANYTHING whether or not that user is signed into their terminal. Furthermore, even if you are not using the instant messenger, you can always do the equivalent of a "whois" search for a user and it will tell you their status. As far as determining the functions a user is using, that is due to the analytics department whose function it is to assist users with obtaining information and helping them use various functions of the terminal. Not sure why the news division had access.
    • I think the issue here is that the reporters knew not just that the user was not logged in currently, but that the user had not logged on for a while.
      Additionally, using of functions is really borderline of insider information. I bet if Bloomberg reporters knew that a certain oil industry banker at Goldman Sachs was looking up Nigerian and Indonesian exchange rates, it would be easy enough to guess that this banker is either trying to buy or sell an oil company with operations in Indonesia and Nigeria. If
  • News of the World or something? They can't get away with this; Rupert Murdoch doesn't even own them!
  • by ShaunC (203807)

    So I gotta have a two-factor biometric dongle to login to Bloomberg, but their news staff can see everything I do? Great thinking.

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