Mike Bloomberg’s Fondness for Spying Extends to the Banksters

In the wake of the Boston bombing, Mayor Bloomberg had some fairly alarming things to say about privacy.

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

But apparently he — or at least his company — even has a cavalier approach to the privacy of those in his own class.

Goldman Sachs recently discovered that Bloomberg reporters were monitoring Goldman activity on their $20,000 a year Bloomberg terminals.

The ability to snoop on Bloomberg terminal users came to light recently when Goldman officials learned that at least one reporter at the news service had access to a wide array of information about customer usage, sources said.

In one instance, a Bloomberg reporter asked a Goldman executive if a partner at the bank had recently left the firm — noting casually that he hadn’t logged into his Bloomberg terminal in some time, sources added.

Goldman later learned that Bloomberg staffers could determine not only which of its employees had logged into Bloomberg’s proprietary terminals but how many times they had used particular functions, insiders said.

The matter raised serious concerns for the firm about how secure information exchanged through the terminals within the firm actually was — and if the privacy of their business strategy had been compromised.

“You can basically see how many times someone has looked up news stories or if they used their messaging functions,” said one Goldman insider.


“Limited customer relationship data has long been available to our journalists, and has never included clients’ security-level data, position data, trading data or messages,” said Bloomberg spokesman Ty Trippet.

“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,” he noted.

Now, normally I’d be laughing my ass off at MOTUs spying on MOTUs. Particularly the thought of MOTUs paying $20,000 a year for the privilege of being spied on.

But I am worried about what this will do for Bloomberg’s business model. Bloomberg News happens to do a lot of (freely-accessible) journalism, subsidized by MOTUs paying for these terminals. If MOTUs get squeamish, it might cut back on actual journalism.

For the moment, at least, it does confirm that MOTU reticence about surveillance has more to do with their belief that their most guarded activities aren’t watched than with a real disinterest in spying.

Update: See this Quartz article for a description of everything Bloomberg employees could snoop on.

13 replies
  1. der says:

    And they’re rich idiots. I had a web business for a short time, then the economy tanked and my spare change was needed more to keep the roof over my head than to market an expensive start-up. What I learned as the sites “administrator” is that, once someone used the free membership sign-up, I could see who was doing what anytime I was bored or wanted to avoid other necessary duties. What did they think, only JEdgar’s Gmen got game?

    Our Elites – Bestest & Brightest. Goddamn.

    “But we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will.”

    What a stupid thing to say.

  2. Clark Hilldale says:

    Epic counterintelligence fail here on the part of Bloomberg. They should never have given access to the user data from the terminals to their reporters.

    The kind of info they could get from monitoring terminal usage of their subscribers would have been way too valuable to put to use anywhere besides Bloomberg’s own proprietary trading activities.

    As they most likely have been doing for years.

  3. What Constitution says:

    No, the concern motivating Goldman Sachs is that, just maybe, the access and information described here might be utilized by somebody to stimulate some kind of “accountability” for their actions. It’s perfectly OK to provide media access so long as it isn’t “abused” by disclosing something they would prefer be kept secret.

  4. lefty665 says:

    Traffic analysis has been around for a long time. It’s a little surprising that it was casually available to reporters. Bet it’s disclosed in the EULA.

    Makes one wonder how much more was available to the folks at Bloomberg who are involved in making real money. Could information be any more inside? Are there criminal legs here if Bloomberg traded on either traffic or content?

    Any reason to think that cloud based providers are not doing essentially the same thing to their customers?

  5. Phil Perspective says:

    In one instance, a Bloomberg reporter asked a Goldman executive if a partner at the bank had recently left the firm — noting casually that he hadn’t logged into his Bloomberg terminal in some time, sources added.

    What moronic reporter is this? What was so important that the reporter basically told the guy to give him/her the truth because I know whether you’re lying?

  6. P J Evans says:

    I know that some of the people I worked with had enough privileges that they could tell if someone wasn’t logged out when they were supposed to be out. (Maintenance procedures required that everyone be off the system for a while. We generally held a meeting at that time.)

  7. lefty665 says:

    EW, There is information available from the provider on visits and posts to this site. Would you have an interest in doing a post on that?

    It could help us all understand what traffic information is generated each time any of us visits a site.

  8. lefty665 says:

    @P J Evans: Someone (likely the same techies doing maintenance) could also see everything you were doing or had on your computer if they wanted to.

    On Intel based computers the machines are accessible even when “turned off”.

  9. emptywheel says:

    @lefty665: The short answer is what I get is limited to IP (which is tied to your ID anyway) and location. But the advertising system takes far more. I don’t get that, though.

  10. P J Evans says:

    We only turned the machines off when the power was going to be off; the rest of the time, we just logged out. That was so the techies (a different set of people) could do updates after hours. Sometimes they had to do stuff during business hours, and we had the fun of watching them do things by remote control. (Three sets of people: IT, which was a support group for general hardware and the universal software, like Office; OpsTech, which handled our particular software and hardware requirements and were real wizards, and our own database support people, who handled the weekly maintenance.)

  11. lefty665 says:

    @emptywheel: A look at what’s being generated, even if you’re not getting much of it, would be an interesting post. Didn’t and don’t think you are exploiting anything.

    @PJ Evans OpsTech it is. Wizards are wizards no matter what we call them. Every system needs some, but it’s another of them double edged thingies.

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