WEN formally requests Mayor to halt use of personal info from petition

[Update 7-July-2011] We are still awaiting an answer from the privacy officer at City Hall regarding this issue as of today (July 7, 2011). To the thousands who have signed the WEN petition, we regret to report that the Mayor’s Office has been gleaning your personal contact information from the petition forms in order to send e-mail messages that we find objectionable. Please read below for details. This practice by the Mayor’s office has implications for citizens’ initiatives all over Vancouver. Our petition was specifically about spot rezoning and a comprehensive plan in the West End. The Mayor is using private information for another purpose, to invite people to a city-wide newsletter about housing and other issues. If you have received an e-mail or other unsolicited contact you believe to originate from your signing of WEN’s “No Rezoning Without a Comprehensive Plan” petition, please let us know at info@WestEndNeighbours.com, with your comments. Further reading on the privacy issue here. Copies of e-mail from Mayor’s Office and WEN’s letter to the Mayor follow:

Dear Mayor Robertson,
cc Vancouver City Council, City Manager Penny Ballem
We are writing to formally request, on record, that you instruct your office to immediately stop data entry and the sending of e-mail messages to addresses you have acquired from West End Neighbours’ “No Rezoning without a Comprehensive Plan” petition sheets.

West End Neighbours (WEN) learned yesterday that your office is using this personal contact information for the purpose of promoting the “Vancouver Mayor’s Office Newsletter.” The same message from your office (see below) is also promoting a survey by the West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee (WEMAC), about which we sent you a written complaint on June 2 (and still await acknowledgement and response).

We have numerous concerns regarding the Mayor’s Office’s use of personal information obtained through any citizens’ petition.

We believe that the use of the personal email contacts and other information from a petition for the purposes of building the Mayor’s newsletter mailing list is inappropriate. Sections 32 and 34(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act are clear. The City must ensure that personal information in its custody or under its control is used only for the purpose for which that information was obtained or compiled, or for a use consistent with that purpose. The personal information on our petition was submitted to Vancouver City Council with regard to concerns of the 11,500 signatories about rezoning and the need for a comprehensive plan in the West End. We promised signatories that their privacy would be protected and are certain that they did not intend their signature to elicit an invitation to receive a city-wide newsletter mailing from the office of the Mayor. We note that your office did not contact WEN to indicate its intent in advance, to use the personal information on the WEN petition for this purpose, which at least would have been a minimum courtesy.

For the reasons stated above, we hereby:

  • Restate our request that your office immediately stop the entry of data and sending e-mail to addresses acquired from WEN’s “No Rezoning without a Comprehensive Plan” petition sheets, until further clarifications can be made to WEN’s satisfaction.
  • Request a written confirmation from the City that from this point onward, information will be used only for the purpose of communication on topics specifically related to the petition content, and for no other purpose. (We would also like to know how many of our petitioners have already been sent the Mayor’s office’s e-mail message.)
  • Request an assurance from the City that this private information has not been and will not be disclosed to any other party, including advisory committees, elector organizations, persons not employed by the City, or external consultants.
We hope that you will show the courtesy of respecting our position, and that you will have the desire to build public trust by recognizing our concerns and requests.
R. Helten
President, West End Neighbours

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: RE: Newsletter invitation from Mayor’s Office
From: “Quinlan, Kevin”
Date: Wed, June 08, 2011 4:51 pm
To: West End Neighbours

The people who received an email from the Mayor’s Office, which noted that their email came from a petition on development in the West End, are from the “West End: No rezoning without a comprehensive plan” petition. This petition was personally delivered to Mayor Robertson last year.
Kevin Quinlan
Executive Assistant
Office of the Mayor
City of Vancouver
Office: 604.873.7232

From: vanmayor@list.vancouver.ca [mailto:vanmayor@list.vancouver.ca]
Sent: Wednesday June 08, 2011 2:16 PM
To: West End Resident
Subject: A newsletter invitation from the Vancouver Mayor’s Office.
We would like to invite you to sign up for the Vancouver Mayor’s Office Newsletter.
We received your email from a petition delivered to Mayor Robertson regarding development in the West End. The City of Vancouver has limited resources for advertising and promoting awareness of our many public engagement programs and initiatives, such as the WEMACS Survey detailed below. By joining our Newsletter, we can give you advance notice about programs, events and the initiatives that interest you most.
To sign up, click here: http://eepurl.com/dOf3E
You can Unsubscribe at any time, and this will be the only email we will send to you regarding an invitation to join our Newsletter.
WEMACS Survey:
The West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee is finishing its consultation and engagement on community priorities. We thought you would be interested in adding your voice to the WEMAC survey on community priorities for the West End.
WEMAC will be providing a report to Mayor Robertson later this month.
Please click here to take the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/wemac
The deadline for survey completion is June 10th.
Thank you for staying connected with the Vancouver Mayor’s Office!
Vancouver Mayor’s Office
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