Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, and Data Literacy

The biggest finance/data story of the month is that “Bloomberg snooped on Goldman Sachs”. Here is one of the dozens (thousands) of articles covering it:

What’s the fuss about?

This is the summary of the story:

  1. Most banks & financial institutions use Bloomberg systems to gather information about financial markets.
  2. Bloomberg record data on who accesses those systems, when they do it, and what they do.
  3. Bloomberg’s journalists were using that information, and analysis of how their terminals were being used, as the basis of news articles.
  4. Goldman figured this out, and confronted Bloomberg accusing them of snooping.

Gawker (very foolishly in my opinion) say this about it:

“The whole thing sounds like the News of the World scandal, except if the targets were paying Rupert Murdoch $20,000 for the privilege.”

Here’s the irony:

What is Goldman Sachs’ advice on how companies should use data?

In October of last year, Goldman Sachs themselves were crowing that ‘data’ was the biggest opportunity for companies.

Their co-head of Internet Investment Banking at the time put out a series of videos covering this. Here was his (paraphrased by venturebeat) advice on what companies needed in order to harness this opportunity:

  1. Access to proprietary data,
  2. Wherewithal/knowledge of what to do with it/how to process it, and
  3. The right relationship with the consumer in order to apply the data.

Think through the 3 of those, and compare that to what Bloomberg did.

Of course, there are enormous marketing & trust implications with using & exposing customer data in the way Bloomberg did, but it’s madness (verging on ‘data illiterate’) that Goldman Sachs would simply assume that zero analysis was taking place on how their staff were using Bloomberg terminals, especially so as both Goldman & Bloomberg are in the business of data and analysis. And even more so again because Bloomberg’s contractual terms allowed them to capture and analyse the data.