The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a major change in the way government data is released, banning journalists from using computers in “blocked” rooms to prevent data breaches. Usually in a “blocked” room, press conferences prepare economic data reports under tightly controlled conditions.
The change, which is due to take effect on March 1st, could have a profound impact on financial markets, especially for companies that trade quickly on economic news, when the federal government processes most of the data.
Announcing the decision, William Beach, the director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cited a 2014 report by a regulator that concluded that it should be prohibited to “inadvertently create an unfair competitive advantage for certain news organizations and their customers”.
For nearly two decades, the White House administration has been taking stricter security measures to prevent data data from leaking, but the results have often been unsatisfactory.
The change in the way the data is released is expected to be particularly heavy for Bloomberg. Bloomberg is a news agency and data services provider, with billionaire Michael Bloomberg holding a majority stake in the company. Mr Bloomberg, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, is also a frequent target for Donald Trump.
The department provides certified news organizations with access to the block, which is particularly popular with news agencies such as Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones. In addition to providing economic news and analysis, these news agencies also provide machine-readable professional data services.
Speed is a key selling point. Some funds use sophisticated computer programs to respond to data releases — for example, buying or selling U.S. Treasury bonds depends on key monthly jobs reports or quarterly reports of U.S. economic growth, which are run by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on behalf of the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is also understood to have banned the sale of its data and decisions.