Bloomberg Clamps Down with Data-Access Policies After Scandal

Financial data and news company Bloomberg has developed in-house access controls and embraced several other technological fixes after it emerged last year that the company's journalists had routinely accessed data on how Wall Street clients were using the company's computer terminals.

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Thu, February 27, 2014

IDG News Service (Washington, D.C., Bureau) — Financial data and news company Bloomberg has developed in-house access controls and embraced several other technological fixes after it emerged last year that the company's journalists had routinely accessed data on how Wall Street clients were using the company's computer terminals.

Bloomberg on Thursday released a report outlining more than 65 technology and process changes the company has made based on August recommendations from outside advisors, including law firm Hogan Lovells and regulatory compliance firm Promontory Financial Group. The company has adopted, or is working to adopt, every recommendation from the outside auditors, Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff said in a letter accompanying the report.

"We have tapped the best technical minds at our company, including our R&D department, to build off some of our historic innovations like the use of biometric finger image authentication, and to perform a comprehensive analysis of our systems to identify deficiencies and recommend enhancements," Doctoroff wrote.

Bloomberg journalists were able to see some information on how the company's terminals were used on Wall Street, including when customers had logged in and when they looked up data on equities, bonds or other broad categories, according to news reports from last May. Bloomberg client Goldman Sachs had raised concerns about a reporter's questions related to an employee's terminal use.

One of the goals of releasing the report is for Bloomberg to "reach out so that we can set more standards across the industry, so that others can learn from what we went through," said Paul Wood, Bloomberg's new chief risk and compliance officer.

The company has pumped up its access controls, by monitoring user activity logs and employing automated triggers to check on systems access, the report said. The access controls implemented by the company may be among the most sophisticated available and allow the company granular control over who has access to company data, based on employee roles, geography and other factors, Wood said.

The company integrated its access control systems with its personnel databases, allowing Bloomberg to track employees as they change positions, Doctoroff said in his letter.

Bloomberg, using access control systems developed in house, has tried to "transform the access to data," Wood said. Access control is a difficult challenge that many companies are still wrestling with, he said.

The company has long used fingerprints as part of the log-on process on its financial terminals, and that functionality helps Bloomberg monitor information access and "prevent an inflation of permissions" as employees change jobs within the company, said Steven Ross, Bloomberg's chief client data compliance officer.

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