Financial data and news service Bloomberg accidentally leaked more than 10,000 private messages online containing sensitive pricing data exchanged by users of Bloomberg's financial information service, according to a report.
The Financial Times has reported that the messages between traders at dozens of the world's largest banks and their customers from one day in 2009 and one in 2010 had been put online by a former Bloomberg employee. The newspaper says it's possible he may have intended them to be uploaded to a secure site.
The messages contained confidential financial price information and trading activity, the newspaper reported. They were later removed from the site.
The Financial Times article quoted a Bloomberg spokesman as saying, "This work was done with client consent, where emails were explicitly forwarded to us to a dedicated email account and released by the person responsible for the email so that we could conduct internal testing to improve our technology for the client."
But Bloomberg also told the newspaper that the post was a "clear violation of our policies".
Bloomberg officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The report came the same day Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler apologised for allowing its journalists "limited" access to sensitive data about how clients used Bloomberg terminals, saying it was "inexcusable", but that important customer data had always been protected.
His statement came as the European Central Bank said it was in "close contact with Bloomberg" about any possible breaches in the confidentiality of data usage. The US Federal Reserve is also investigating, and a source briefed on the situation said the Treasury Department was looking into the question as well.
The practice of giving reporters access to some data considered proprietary, including when a customer looked into broad categories such as equities or bonds, came to light in media reports last week. In response, the parent company, Bloomberg LP, said it had restricted such access last month after Goldman Sachs complained.
In an editorial posted on Bloomberg.com, Winkler said, "Our reporters should not have access to any data considered proprietary. I am sorry they did. The error is inexcusable."
Goldman flagged the matter to Bloomberg after the bank found that journalists had access to more information than it had known and argued the information was sensitive and should not be seen by reporters.
The news triggered fears at Wall Street firms about the privacy of sensitive data, as well as at the US Federal Reserve and other government departments that use Bloomberg terminals.
In the editorial, Winkler sought to clarify what exactly Bloomberg journalists could see. He said they had access to a user's login history, as well as "high-level types of user functions on an aggregated basis, with no ability to look into specific security information."
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