Jeb Bush transparency goes totally wrong with mass email dump

11 Feb 2015

Image of Jeb Bush via The World Affairs Council/Flickr

As a member of the Bush US political dynasty, Jeb Bush is going to be scrutinised for his follies, but releasing his entire email history, including people’s social security numbers, may be a particularly bad one.

Under the auspices of transparency, something which many US political parties are afraid of addressing, the brother of former US president George W Bush decided to buck the trend by releasing his entire email history, including emails with his constituents during his time as the governor of Florida between 1999 and 2007.

While an amicable act, the public relations move has somewhat backfired after a bit of sleuthing in the Outlook files showed there were numerous cases of people’s social security numbers (SSNs), addresses and phone numbers being posted without redaction for all to see.

On the website created to host the emails, Bush said of the decision to post them online, “I am posting the emails of my governorship here. Some are funny; some are serious; some I wrote in frustration. But they’re all here so you can read them and make up your own mind.”

Realising their mistake, Bush and his office have removed the raw information from the website and have issued a redacted version in place of it.

A screenshot of one of the emails published on Jeb Bush’s website

Is mass publishing of emails legal?

Those reading may ask how the blanket release of personal emails and information could be legal in a time when the laws surrounding data protection have never been under such scrutiny but, according to The Verge, Bush himself said Florida has one of the ‘broadest’ laws when it comes to public records.

Bush’s woes did not stop there, however, as news websites, and Buzzfeed, in particular, began noticing Bush’s recently hired (and fired) CTO of his Right to Rise campaign, Ethan Czahor, was found to have deleted dozens of tweets from his Twitter page that were sexist, homophobic and otherwise controversial.

“Gov Bush believes the comments were inappropriate,” a Bush spokesperson told Buzzfeed. “They have been deleted at our request. Ethan is a great talent in the tech world and we are very excited to have him on board the Right to Rise PAC.”

This double blow is unlikely to provide much good PR for Bush’s potential candidacy for the US presidency in 2016, where he could aim to become the third member of the Bush clan to become president.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic