Aardvark Daily
Confidential ACT mailing list posted to usenet
Copyright © 1997 to Bruce Simpson, syndication rights available
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18 Dec 1997

The New Zealand political party ACT has a very popular newsletter called The Goss which is regularly distributed by Fax and email. In an unfortunate slip-up this week, the entire contents of the email distribution list was sent out as part of the publication and one individual has risked legal action by posting the list to a public Internet newsgroup.

The email was sent on Tuesday 16 and included 1439 email addresses, including a number of MP's email addresses.

Another usenet user calling himself Richard Creser announced that he would publish the mailing list as a way of promoting his own newsletter "The Goose" and shortly afterwards, the list was posted to the nz.general newsgroup.

The accidental release of the mailing list may be a breach of section 5 of the Privacy Act although it is unlikely that action would be taken by the Commissioner unless complaints were received.

ACT have said that they consider the matter to be of a very serious nature and are taking steps to ensure there is no recurrence.

David Farrar has forwarded a complaint to Voyager, the ISP used by Creser and they are looking in to the issue to determine whether it is a breach of their own terms of service.

As if to show just how easily such mistakes can be made another press statement sent out from Murray McCully's office is reported to have also unintentionally included the entire list of recipients.

Given the ease with which confidential information can be accidentally transferred to large numbers of people through the Net, it is essential that some precedents are established over the legality of republication or re-use of such information.

Aardvark is currently seeking a legal opinion on whether Creser is in breach of copyright or other laws which could see prosecution brought against him by ACT or any of those included in the list. This story will be updated again today or tomorrow morning.

It is almost certain that the email addresses published will now appear on the junk-email lists which have in some cases significantly compromised the value of email as a fast and efficient messaging tool. Once an email address appears on usenet it usually only takes a few days before the flood of junk-mail starts arriving.

Have Your Say What do YOU think about this situation? Should individuals be allowed to republish information sent to them by mistake? Should this case be used to set a precedent to cover similar events in the future?

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