The Company Is Always Watching

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Nothing captures Bloomberg better than these machines, though these days, it's usually more accurate to call them pieces of software.

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Up-to-date sales figures and other data about the terminals are displayed on screens throughout Bloomberg's offices. What's going on at the largest American oil reserve , which holds the crude sold on the New York Mercantile Exchange? Bloomberg commissions a satellite to fly over the site in Cushing, Oklahoma, twice a week and take a picture.

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Any terminal customer can access the photographs along with estimates of the amount of oil held in the tanks based on the length of the shadows cast across their roofs. Each of Bloomberg's more than 15, employees has a terminal, its iconic keyboard and twin screens making the offices resemble a trading floor, and is encouraged to use it as much as possible. Many core functions of the company are conducted with the terminal. Bloomberg's 2, journalists use it to maintain a collective database of sources--contact information, details like children's names and accolades, and a record of every conversation with that person.

Long-awaited features like the always-on display are more about refinement than revolution

And as the rest of the world just learned , all employees--including, until recently, Bloomberg reporters--have access to potentially sensitive information about terminal users: the last time they logged in, the commands they use, and their chats with customer service. Bloomberg staff have had such access for years.

Bloomberg CEO Dan Doctoroff, seeking to mollify jittery customers, most of whom work in the obsessively secretive world of finance, called the access for reporters " a mistake. Inside the Bloomberg Tower, though, the controversy is being met with bafflement by some employees and, they say, executives. The ability to see data about terminal usage by customers was considered an open secret.

A Bloomberg TV anchor mentioned it on the air in , and an initial analysis by the company is said to show that " several hundred " reporters took advantage of the access. The information seemed, to some, of a piece with Bloomberg's broader culture of what it calls " transparency ," considered a key to the company's success. Reporters, meanwhile, are bred to make use of any information they can get their hands on, and this stuff was just sitting on their computers!

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Within the company, stalking is simply part of the culture. Some staff make a habit of looking up the last time Michael Bloomberg--the company's founder, longtime chief executive, and now mayor of New York--visited his family's foundation, which uses the same security system. Many current and former Bloomberg employees say they have been told the company keeps a record of every action taken on a terminal, whether by staff or outside customers, in a practice known as keystroke logging.

The data are closely held within the company but can be used for everything from assisting customers with their machines to investigating employees for violations of their confidentiality agreement. There's no evidence the keystroke data have ever been used for Bloomberg reporting. Keystroke logging is commonly used by companies to monitor staff, but Bloomberg customers may not be aware their terminal usage is so finely recorded. Bloomberg spokesman Ty Trippet declined to comment on the practice.

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The breadth of information the company possesses about its customers may raise privacy concerns, but it's also the envy of Bloomberg's competitors and a model for many startups in technology and media. Bloomberg was hardly the first company to use open-plan offices, collect loads of data about its customers, and make that information available across the organization, but it popularized those practices and obviously found great success in them. The San Francisco office of payments startup Square looks like a miniature version of Bloomberg's headquarters, from the curved couches to the screens displaying data about the company above everyone's desk.

The Cockpit spy! Who is always watching?!

If a user clicks on the "Remember Me" box when logging in to Facebook, the cookies that are stored locally on his computer will also store data about his activities on Beacon advertisers' sites. Although this development may be somewhat alarming, it's not entirely shocking.

Many e-commerce sites and web advertisers have used cookies to track users online for years now.

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The threat could also be somewhat overstated: Facebook can only gather user data from advertisers who signed up to use Beacon such as Overstock. Users can also download a Firefox plugin that blocks data transmission between advertiser sites and Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, also apologized: "Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution.

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I'm not proud of the way we've handled this situation and I know we can do better. See Also:. View Comments. Sponsored Stories Powered By Outbrain. More business. Author: Klint Finley Klint Finley.

The Company Is Always Watching The Company Is Always Watching
The Company Is Always Watching The Company Is Always Watching
The Company Is Always Watching The Company Is Always Watching
The Company Is Always Watching The Company Is Always Watching
The Company Is Always Watching The Company Is Always Watching
The Company Is Always Watching The Company Is Always Watching

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