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Bloomberg Scandal Discloses Financial Promiscuity

21/05/2013 12:32 BST | Updated 19/07/2013 10:12 BST

The number of times the word "hacking" appears in the news is inversely proportional to the degree of indignation that the very act of accessing private information causes to the general reader. It happens on such a regular basis that we hardly consider its significance any longer. It all began a couple of years ago when hacks from News of the World were exposed and later found guilty of accessing the cell phone of, well, a dead person.

With gossip having become such a valuable asset for struggling newspapers, it is no wonder how these immoral journalists went to such extremes in order to provide their equally immoral readers with morbid obscenities. Those who assumed hacking was a practice that only thrived in the offices and newsrooms of Murdoch's empire have recently had to reconsider this.

A few weeks ago, live on CNN, Tim Clemente, a former counterterrorism agent, when asked whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations, candidly admitted that yes, "There is a way."

"We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It's not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out," Clemente insisted.

The flabbergasted interviewer replied, "So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible." "No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not", the retired counterterrorism agent further clarified.

As if eager to confirm Clemente's frank admission, the U.S. Department of Justice a short while ago "secretly obtained two months of telephone records of AP reporters and editors." It's now official; hacking is not a prerogative of the gutter press. The last in chronological order, but certainly not least in terms of importance, was the "Bloomberg scandal." Journalists working for the financial news agency Bloomberg were accused of spying on stock market data of major banking institutions -- which also happen to be their clients.

The editorial colossus itself has admitted to accessing private information. Interested parties that might have been hacked include the Bank of England, Wall Street Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan. Reporting on the events, the Daily Mail clarified that "although it has a news agency, Bloomberg makes its money by renting the £13,000-a-year terminals to banks and traders. They offer access to instant movements of global stock markets and a host of other real-time financial information." What basically happened then is that Bloomberg accessed information regarding its subscribers, something any Internet provider technically can do.

At a time when price-fixing and insider trading are an integral, preeminent part of the global (financial) economy, obtaining data and information can potentially equal higher gains. Financial markets, as Bloomberg knows only too well, run on data, with profits made on abstract information. Given Bloomberg's role in the financial world as a data renter/terminal, it remains unclear why and what would be its interest in accessing its own clients' information. Chances are extremely low that light will be shed on this imbroglio. If anything, this whole affair goes to show how the global financial economy comes down to a few, ultra-powerful conglomerates whose actions need no justification except when they infringe on each other's interests.

In this respect, it is significant that the man who was brought in to investigate the hacking claims is a figure very close to the Wall Street elite. The Wall Street Journal reported, "Bloomberg LP stepped up efforts to address client concerns over data security and privacy, appointing Samuel Palmisano, former chairman and chief executive of International Business Machines Corp., to conduct an independent review of the company's data practices. In Mr. Palmisano, Bloomberg has found a senior executive with strong ties to its clients on Wall Street, a large and long-time source of business to IBM. The computer and technology company, which Mr. Palmisano ran from 2002 to the end of 2011, is considered well-versed in high-level computer security and privacy matters."

It doesn't take a genius or a financial expert to get a clear picture of the phenomenon's dynamics. In order to give a semblance of integrity, the "culprit" hired a business insider to lead an "independent review." Will this independent review investigate the seemingly barely legal practices of trading? Of course not. Like every aspect of the financial market, secrecy and exclusive knowledge are essential prerogatives to its survival.

Writing for the Daily Beast, Stuart Stevens, the man who headed Mitt Romney's campaign, entitled his piece "Bloomberg Terminal Scandal Makes Bunga-Bunga Parties Seem Quaint." It does indeed if only because instead of the government funds of an increasingly insignificant Mediterranean nation, what is really at stake here is the world economy. The world economy though, unlike what the very term might suggest, is not a matter of common interests but is actually driven by the obscure manoeuvrings of the financial institutions who find themselves well above the rule of justice. That, sadly, is what the Bloomberg "scandal" proves.

This article previously appeared on China.org.cn