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Privacy breach at Bloomberg a ‘black eye’ Comment on this post ↓
May 12th, 2013 by Warren Swil

If we can’t trust such a venerable organization,

is there anyone in media or finance we can trust?

SINCE THE professionalization of journalism began in the early 20th century, there has been a traditional “separation of church and state” between the news and advertising divisions of most major media companies. This is necessary so the demands of the advertisers –

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Credit: Talk Radio News Service. Creative Commons license

vital to the existence of all media companies – don’t influence the news coverage. It has worked well for generations.
Now, however, in the age of instant access to all sorts of personal data, a new kind of “firewall” seems necessary.
On Page One of the national edition of The New York Times on Saturday, Amy Chozick and Ben Protess report that data on the  315,000 Bloomberg L.P. terminals in major financial and other institutions around the globe has been compromised.
Not by some outside hacker, however. But by employees of the news division of Bloomberg itself. Read it here: “Privacy Breach on Bloomberg’s Data Terminals”

THE SITUATION was brought to light after officials from Goldman Sachs complained “that a Bloomberg reporter had, while inquiring about a partner’s employment status, pointed out that the partner had not logged onto his Bloomberg terminal lately,” Chozick and Protess report.
This is an alarming development – not only for those directly involved, but for all of us.
As we surf the web, we leave a rich trail of data about ourselves of which we are hardly even conscious.
Cookies, tracking code, browsing histories, passwords – the list is endless and growing exponentially. For much more on this topic, check out my April 30 post on having a digital nervous breakdown. Read it here.
If our personal data cannot be safely entrusted to an organization like Bloomberg, L.P., then who can we trust with it?
Experian? Visa? Mastercard? Facebook?
Do we have any choice in the matter?
The Bloomberg privacy policy, publicly stated on its own web site, seems to be mere words on ether rather than a promise of security.
Under the heading “Accuracy and Security of Personal Information,” is the following:
“Any personal information you provide to BLP is kept on secure servers. BLP uses reasonable administrative, technical, personnel, and physical measures (a) to safeguard personal information against loss, theft, unauthorized use, disclosure, or modification; and (b) to ensure the integrity of the personal information.
“To help us protect your privacy, you should maintain the secrecy of the logon ID and password you may have set up in connection with your participation in this Web site’s services. Read it yourself here.

IN THEIR NYT report, Chozick and Protess highlight the central issue in the Bloomberg fiasco with a quote:
“On Wall Street, anonymity is critically important. Secrecy and the ability to cover one’s tracks is paramount,” said Michael J. Driscoll, a former senior trader at Bear Stearns who now teaches at Adelphi University. He added: “If Bloomberg reporters crossed that line, that’s an issue.”
An ‘issue’? That’s a major understatement.
Just look what happened to Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid “News of the World” when it “crossed the line” and totally lost the trust of the public.
It was summarily shut down. Hundreds of employees lost their jobs, and Rupert, poor boy, got a nasty black eye, dragged before the British Parliament and forced to eat humble pie.
Trust is essential to the survival of both the financial system and the media business of Bloomberg and all other similarly structured businesses.
Loss of trust is an existential threat.
Bloomberg CEO Daniel L. Doctoroff confirmed as much when he reportedly said in a memo to employees that “client trust is our highest priority and the cornerstone of our business.”
This is indeed a black eye for Bloomberg. Let us hope the damage is contained, and that it is not too severe. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a fine American, with the wisdom – and money – to make a huge difference to our country. We wish him and his company all the best.



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