[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:
cc Vancouver City Council, City Manager Penny Ballem
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.
President, West End Neighbours
Subject: RE: Newsletter invitation from Mayor’s Office
From: “Quinlan, Kevin”
Date: Wed, June 08, 2011 4:51 pm
To: West End Neighbours
Office of the Mayor
City of Vancouver