Unsolicited Emails May Violate Mallahan Campaign's Own Privacy Policy

By Erica C. Barnett August 26, 2009


Over the last few days, I've received several emails from readers (and one member of PubliCola's staff) complaining that mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan has been bombarding them with unsolicited emails. Here's a representative one I got this morning:
I've been getting emails from Joe Mallahan for a while now, but I'm certainly not a Mallahan supporter, and I've never signed up for anything to do with his campaign. Now he's calling me his "friend." I've talked to some other people who've received these emails without signing up also. I took a look at his website and his privacy policy says he won't email people who didn't sign up. Is this spam? Should I be upset about this, or is this just the way things work?

The email in question is clearly aimed at Mallahan supporters; subject-lined "Thank you, Seattle voters and supporters!", it begins, "Dear friend," thanks the reader "for your support," and concludes with a request for donations.

Mallahan campaign spokeswoman Charla Neuman acknowledges that the campaign puts people on its email list without their knowledge, but was unclear about exactly where the campaign's email list comes from. At first, she said the list comes from "a variety of sources, different people who sugegst folks being on there; then she said it came from "a compilation of different Democratic supporters." Finally, she suggested that some people might have ended up on the list because of the campaign's email list software, which "we are not the author of."

At the very least, the unsolicited emails appear to violate the campaign's privacy policy, which explicitly says that "individuals must affirmatively request to join" Mallahan's email list, which is meant "to keep interested, eligible individuals informed about important topics." The privacy policy also says the campaign collects personal information (phone numbers, addresses, and the like) only from people who "affirmatively request" to join the campaign's email list.

Neuman denied that the unsolicited emails violate the privacy policy, and says that policy only refers to divulging personal information. She said that anyone who doesn't want to receive emails from the Mallahan campaign should send the campaign an email asking to be removed from the list. "We do have someone who goes through those to make sure we don’t send them to anyone who doesn’t want them," Neuman said.
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