PRIVACY AND ETHICS: Perry’s Email

On September 29, 2018, thousands of Middletown residents received an email from an unknown group called “Residents Against Over Development”.  The group has no online presence and is not registered as a political organization with the State’s Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). A search of New Jersey’s Business Gateway also shows no listing, and the email itself includes no contact information.

The email is a political attack on Township Committee candidate Sean Byrnes but is missing the “paid for by” line required by campaign finance laws.  And, it appears the email was received by anyone who signed up through the township’s alert system for official notifications.

By following a few steps starting with the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email, you land on the Twitter page of Township Committeeman Tony Perry.

While not denying responsibility for the email, Perry claimed there was no wrongdoing in how residents’ email addresses were obtained.

According to the Township, more than 11,000 email addresses collected through the Township’s alert system were released to an anonymous party in response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request in July 2018. This occurred even though the township’s own privacy policy, updated in May 2015, says that the “township will not… disclose your information to any third party.” Certainly, residents’ expectation of privacy should have exempted this personal information from disclosure.

Besides the ELEC violation, privacy breach, and attempt to deceive residents, Perry would have had to falsely claim that people had given permission to use their email addresses.  MailChimp, the online platform used to send out the mass mailing, requires the user to verify, as a conscious separate step, that permission has been given.

Below are links to media coverage on this issue.

 

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Asbury Park Press | APP.com
Middletown official won’t deny sending mysterious political email
Russ Zimmer, APP Staff
Oct. 5, 2018
This article includes a video documenting how the email is linked to Committeeman Tony Perry.

 

MiddletownMike.com (local blog)
The Curious Case Of An Email And The October 1, 2018 Middletown Township Committee Meeting
Oct. 15, 2018

 

Asbury Park Press | APP.com
Middletown released residents’ email addresses to a mystery third party
Russ Zimmer, APP Staff
Oct. 17, 2018 | Updated Oct. 19, 2018

 

Patch.com
Middletown Gives Up All Residents’ Email Accounts In OPRA Request
By Carly Baldwin, Patch Staff
Oct. 19, 2018

 

Asbury Park Press | APP.com
Middletown Democrats: NJ must investigate mysterious political email
Russ Zimmer, APP Staff
Oct. 25, 2018

 

 

Ethics Matter.