Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods gives neighborhood leaders' contact info to corporate spammers

The administration preceding Karl Dean's collected community leaders' contact information in order to stay in touch with the community about problems. That's what Purcell's Office of Neighborhoods told us. According to the Nashville Neighborhoods elist, leaders started receiving spam from private companies in October because the Dean Administration is making contact information available to any private enterprise that asks.

Here is an example of spam received late this year by neighborhood association contacts:

From: Starner, Gary
Subject: Neighborhood Watch Joint Effort
Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 9:42 AM

Dear Neighborhood Watch Member,

I received your email address from the mayor's office since you are involved with a Neighborhood Watch program. I strongly believe in home security and taking preventative measures to ensure the safety of ourselves and others. I believe it so much that I became a representative of ADT Security Services recently and wanted to introduce myself personally through this email.

From my understanding, Neighborhood Watch programs in certain neighborhoods meet regularly, whether it be monthly or quarterly. Having known this information, I would like to propose a sort-of "joint-effort" relationship between the two of us, making security and safety a top priority in our neighborhoods.

I would like to talk to you personally about it more over coffee or lunch if at all possible, but briefly, my idea consists of presenting at some of your Neighborhood Watch meetings why security should be important to each individual, and the solutions that are available from ADT. Whether your meetings are small or large does not matter. And just to show you how important security is to me, I'll even talk about other security solutions besides ADT that can offer safety to homeowners. I have spoken with the area's Community Coordination Police Officer and we are in the middle of working out the details.

Please let me know if you or anyone you know would like to contact me to schedule a brief meeting in which we'll discuss more joint-efforts. I can't wait to hear back from you soon!


Luke Starner

615-566-0107 (Cell, preferred, leave a message if necessary)
615-743-0179 (Office, ask for Luke)
ADT Security Services
744 Melrose Avenue
Nashville, TN 37211

It may be perfectly legal to provide contact information to outside sources, but it also seems to violate the spirit of the advocacy role that the Office of Neighborhoods is supposed to be playing for neighborhoods. The Mayor's Office should be focused on effective public service delivery rather than on lending aid to commercial enterprise. And ADT is clearly exploiting the neighborhood watch alert system to pimp its services.

Susan Floyd, a long-time community leader, filed a protest with the Mayor's Office:

Oct 25

Dear Mayor Dean,

Apparently the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods gave their entire email contact list to a salesperson from ADT Security. I have had emails from several neighbors that received this same email, including our neighborhood group's email address. One neighbor contacted Scott Wallace from the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods and his reply was that they gave the list out to anyone who asked for it. (see email below)

Giving out an email list of neighbors trying to keep in communication with a government body created not only to serve the citizens, but to protect them, to a for- profit organization creates a breach of trust between the citizens and those they elected to protect them. It makes me wonder what other information has been given away to anyone that asks.

I would hope that the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods would rethink this policy and make immediate changes to prevent this email list from being sold or given out to other organizations.

Susan Floyd
Donelson-Hermitage Neighborhood Association

On 10/25/2011 12:45 PM, Wallace, Scott (Mayor's Office) wrote:
Good afternoon,

Our main list is available to anyone that asks. If you like I can keep you updated but not make your information to the public.

Thank you,

Scott C. Wallace
Community Relations Coordinator
Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods
1 Public Square
Nashville, TN. 37201
(615)862-6000 office
(615)862-6001 fax

Another neighborhood leader, Jennifer Pennington, replied to Susan that she was disappointed that she shared her contact information with MOON given that her "very private" email and otherwise unlisted phone number had also received solicitations.

Some on the Nashville Neighborhoods list countered that the laws of transparency allow the Mayor's Office to share its gathered information with anyone who requests it. Others, like Trish Bolian, insist that transparency does not include the goals of commercialism:

the argument regarding transparency applies to elected or appointed officials in government. It should not apply in the way it was used here to neighborhood volunteers. There is a huge difference in the application of this. Additionally, this is a private business using neighborhood folks to try to increase their business...not someone seeking support of neighborhoods for a cause in behalf of the city. Transparency, to me, in terms giving out e mails lists of neighborhood volunteers is a non-applicable argument regarding a sharing of information that should not have occurred.

To have the mayor's office (Scott) state that they give out the list to "anyone who asks for it" is totally inappropriate.

At the very least, not warning neighborhood leaders that their contact information was public record so that they could choose not to divulge certain information was inappropriate. However, I have to agree that transparency laws exist for the public good, not for commercial purposes. I've attended community meetings where I've signed up on contact lists under the stated and express purpose that the sponsors (whether they were MDHA, Council Members, Metro Planning, Metro Police, or the Mayor's Office) would use it to follow-up on the topic of the meeting. Never once was I warned that the contact list was also an opt-in list to receive sales calls and spam.

The Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods under Karl Dean has consistently departed from service to the neighborhoods, and from 2011 going forward it looks like they are more willing to serve spammers than neighborhoods.

No comments:

Post a Comment