Jeb Bush dumps emails, home addresses, and social security numbers of … – The Verge

Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jeb Bush, a rumored 2016 Republican presidential candidate, just decided to publish hundreds of thousands of emails sent to him during his time as governor of Florida. On its face it seems like a great idea in the name of transparency, but there’s one huge problem: neither Bush nor those who facilitated the publication of the records, including the state government, decided to redact potentially sensitive personal information from them.

“In the spirit of transparency, I am posting the emails of my governorship here,” a note on Bush’s website says. “Some are funny; some are serious; some I wrote in frustration.” Some also contain the email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers of Florida residents. The emails are available in Outlook format, and can be searched on the web at Bush’s website.

The Verge did not receive a response from Mr. Bush or his Political Action Committee’s office at the time of publication.

“In the spirit of transparency, I am posting the emails of my governorship.”

We reviewed many of the emails released by Bush, and found a wide variety of communications — everything from religious parables, to praise of the governor’s support of creationism, to routine bureaucratic correspondence. Some of the emails, though, appear to be highly sensitive or personal. Many, like the one excerpted below, share tales of personal struggle or sorrow.

This is just a sharing…today..i feel beaten down… … want to help many and hope I can get there some day….through my empowerment it will be a testament to my message and the ability to share my future resources…its a lonely road…so many seem actively against you…your back is to the wall…you have many another two months of business survival…

P.S. this is just sharing with a friend… please no action or follow-up or any communications or assistance sought of nay kind…its my struggle to work through and find a way…just feeling “beaten” today…at 37 I feel like 60 today :)…..and tomorrow will be better.

Confidential communications intended for indicated recipient only

Other emails include potentially sensitive details about government operations. One email reviewed by The Verge discussed termination of a Florida Lottery employee; the email revealed the reasons for his termination, including “conduct unbecoming a public employee, insubordination, and neglect of duty.” The employee had emailed then-governor Bush to appeal for reinstatement. Bush followed up with a lottery official to see if his request could be granted.

Some include personal appeals from citizens with medical or employment issues. Some of these people included their social security numbers in the clear, as in the email shown below. (The redactions are our own.)



SSN jeb bush
SSN jeb bush


In another example, this email sent on behalf of a healthcare representative contains information about a child with a life-threatening medical condition. The email exposes the child and mother’s name, the mother’s home state and phone number, her social security number, and her healthcare identification number:


SSN2
SSN2

We do not know yet if any of these email disclosures violate Florida privacy laws — as Bush notes in the signature of many of his emails, “Florida has a very broad public records law,” and “your email communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure.”  We will update this story as we receive comment from experts on privacy and Florida law.

Many of the same emails Bush released today may have already been available online as of December, 2014, thanks to a request made by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Some publications, including The Washington Post and The Hill, combed the email records for policy insight, but did not appear to stumble upon sensitive personal information.

Obviously one of the lessons here is that you shouldn’t email information to public officials that you want to keep private, at least not in Florida. But even if these emails are subject to the state’s sunshine law disclosure, a public request for specific information is not the same as a huge, indiscriminate data dump being made for political reasons. At minimum, it shows a serious ignorance of the volume of sensitive information in the records and a carelessness about their disclosure — not a good look for someone who called himself the first “eGovernor,” let alone a man who may want to sit in the White House.



egovernor
egovernor


Update, 3:10 PM: This story has been updated to include additional emails from the archive, as well as prior reports on the archive from December, 2014.

Update, 3:22 PM: Kristy Campbell, a spokesperson for Jeb Bush, released the following statement to BuzzFeed News:

This is an exact replica of the public records on file with the Florida Department of State and are available at anyone’s request under Chapter 119 sunshine laws. Regarding exempt personal identifying information, the Florida Department of State or the Executive of the Governor can share more background on exemptions under Florida Statute and the state’s process of for these.

We’ll take a look at anything flagged.

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