Elizabeth Warren: New Chat System Lets Banks Avoid Regulation With "A Wink And A Nod"

A new chat system being backed by a number of banks offers an end run around stricter compliance and government oversight, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told financial regulators in a letter Monday.

The software, called Symphony, was developed by a consortium of banks and is intended to be a cheaper, more secure competitor to the omnipresent and expensive Bloomberg terminal.




Warren’s letter pointed out that as of July, Symphony’s website boasted that its product guaranteed “that data deletion is permanent” and will “prevent government spying.” That language, the senator said, “[puts] companies on notice — with a wink and a nod — that they can use Symphony to reduce compliance and enforcement concerns.”

The New York Department of Financial Services in July cited the company’s marketing language to express similar concerns about potentially nefarious use of Symphony’s encrypted, open source platform.

In an email to HuffPost, a company spokeswoman said using “Symphony does not change regulators’ ability to obtain messages from our clients. Symphony delivers messages to its clients to download, decrypt, and archive, and they are able to provide those messages to regulators just as they would with other compliant messaging systems.”

The company said it removed the stark language about data deletion from its website on Aug. 3. Now, the website instead features softer language, saying the software offers “secure disposal of expired data via key aging — in accordance with US government guidance.” However, Symphony’s promise that “data deletion is permanent” still appeared in a Google search snippet as of Monday evening.

Benjamin Walsh

In an email to HuffPost, a company spokeswoman said using “Symphony does not change regulators’ ability to obtain messages from our clients. Symphony delivers messages to its clients to download, decrypt, and archive, and they are able to provide those messages to regulators just as they would with other compliant messaging systems.”

This story has been updated to include comment from Symphony.



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