Bloomberg Ethics, Or Lack Thereof

Amy Chozick and Ben Protess for the New York Times:

A shudder went through Wall Street on Friday after the revelation that Bloomberg News reporters had extracted subscribers’ private information through the company’s ubiquitous data terminals to break news.

This is absolutely mind-boggling to me. This particularly struck me (emphasis mine):

Bloomberg said the functions that allowed journalists to monitor subscribers were a mistake and were promptly disabled after 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.

Anyone remember company towns that sprang up mostly during the Industrial Revolution? Industry moguls would not just open a large factory in a remote location, but also build housing, stores, and amenities for workers and their families. Employee’s paychecks would go directly back into their employers pockets, since every store with which employees could spend money was owned by the man signing the paychecks.

Alternately, it’s also considered good form to provide what’s known as “full disclosure  when a person of influence is discussing a topic with which this speaker has a vested interested. If an investor is talking about the innovative features of a new startup, which happens to be part of this investor’s portfolio, a few words of disclosure are nearly demanded. It’s considered unethical to omit said investment.

Bloomberg, a company which provides both news reporting as well as professional services, has an ethical obligation to keep these two areas of business completely separate. Tools which shows user’s login sessions and information may be pertinent for account management, but this feature shouldn’t be something reporters even think about, much less the ability to access.

This is not “a mistake,” this is a complete lack of ethics and breath of privacy and trust. I’m extremely disappointed by Bloomberg.

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