Labour and Greens harvesting emails

Labour and Green Parties harvesting petition email addresses for wider political purposes is raised in a Standard post, where activists  from both parties try to defend it - Muppets.

Did Mike Williams just suggest (about 19 minutes in) that the Greens and Labour Parties utilise the email addresses they gathered from the petition against asset sales in their election campaigns?! I sincerely hope he wasn’t channeling an idea that has any traction within the Labour Party machine.

Just to be absolutely clear on this. I did a lot of political activism in the past. And sometimes that involved gathering people’s email addresses or whatever on petitions and so on. Any thought of using those contact details to canvas on other matters, or even associated matters, was rightly so off the cards as to be unthinkable. If there is a desire to use collected contact details, then the simple inclusion of a tick box for permission to contact should be included on any form. Otherwise…no. Don’t do it. It’s that simple.

The only surprise is this is a surprise to some. It’s been talked about since early this year - Asset petition a data source for political spam? and also on Whale Oil yesterday - The Green Party Data scammers: Look at their Guidelines where it was pointed out:

We want to stay in touch with supporters about the campaign and other Green Party activities. That’s why we ask for email, address and phone. Contact info is optional, email is best.

Amongst the comments is some good advice:

Idiot/Savant

I encourage everyone who believes their information has been misused in this way to lodge a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

Also remember to tell the world you’ve done so. Bad publicity is an effective weapon against politicians; make sure you use it.

Apart from it possibly being illegal as it is contrary to the Privacy Act this would be deceitful use of the asset sales petition.

However a Labour Party activist claims a very extravagant interpretation:

Te Reo Putake

Hate to inject some reality into this discussion, but the petition form asks signers to provide their phone and email address if they want to “keep up to date with the campaign”. A phone call from Labour, the Greens or Grey Power during election year for that purpose would obviously be lawful.

An obvious update would be either party announcing they intended to buy back the assets or some similar measure.

So, no privacy breach as long as it’s relevant to the campaign.

http://www.labour.org.nz/sites/default/files/KOA_CIR_PETITION_FORM_L_27_04_2012.pdf

That opens up the possibility of weaselly workarounds of the law. “The campaign” was the campaign to gather signatures for the petition. Unless Te reo Putake is suggesting it was always intended as a long running political campaign using the petition and referendum for taxpayer funding.

And a Green Party activist also tries to make excuses:

toad

What’s more, all emails a person receives from the Greens in response to signing a petition have the following options:

Unsubscribe from this email list

Change subscriptions and update your details – subscribe to email newsletters and more

Unsubscribe from all emails

So at any time a person who opts to go onto the Green database through signing a petition can unsubscribe from receiving all emails, or particular types of emails from the Greens (or can add particular additional types of emails they want to receive if they wish).

Harvesting and then providing an opt-out option after spamming is not acceptable, as a Green supporter says:

framu

“So at any time a person who opts to go onto the Green database through signing a petition”

but unless that situation was stated up front all they did was sign a petition – thats the problem

Im a solid green voter but i detest ANYTHING turning up in my email that i didnt ask for. Even from those i support

like others have said – all it needs is an opt in check box – “do you want to receive further communications from the green party”.

It shouldnt be an opt out later situation

Bill

Toad. If I sign a petition, it means that I’m signing a petition. And that’s it. The signing isnot a license for the holder of the petition to contact me on either that or other mattersunless they have explicitly sought and received my permission to do so.

As I said in the post, I’ve collected signatures and details on a number of occasions. Usually the petition was simply to give people the feeling they were doing something in support of whatever the cause was…ie, it wasn’t really of any consequence or help.

Anyway, I can say with absolute confidence that most people who sign a petition want the signing to be the beginning and end of their involvement. (This from the %age of ‘buy in’ when a ‘buy in’ option was put on forms and pointed out to people)

But sure, feel entitled to pester people as you seem to indicate is your ‘right’ having gained contact details. It’ll blow up in your face.

Idiot/Savant

The petition form’s only nod to the Privacy Act was a note saying “To keep up to date with the campaign please provide your email and phone number”. Which suggests strongly that use of the information collected should be limited to the actual referendum campaign, not the wider political campaigning of the petitioner or political parties doing the collection.

Responses are very concerning:

Te Reo Putake

Nope, it’s all part of the same campaign, Bill. One of the ‘other strings’ you have forgotten is the just completed referendum. The next string is the election campaign. If you signed the petition and gave your details, you have consented to be contacted about asset sales. That’s the fact of the matter.

Te Reo Putake

Referring to I/S’s narrow understanding of what the word campaign means doesn’t help. The anti asset sales campaign continues unabated and the use of the contact details for the purpose for which they were provided is not only sensible, it’s vital.

The would mean parties could call it an endless campaign and endlessly abuse the intent of the Privacy Act. That will annoy a lot of people.

No Right Turn has also blogged on this calling it (correctly) Grossly unethical:

To point out the obvious: this is a screaming violation of Privacy Principle 10, and possibly Privacy Principle 11 if you take the collecting agency as Roy Reid, the formal petitioner, rather than the parties who provided the footsoldiers. And it is grossly unethical. Quite apart from that, its also stupid, burning both potential supporters and their activist base (who may not be too keen on having their hard work perverted to violate people’s privacy).

As for what to do about it, firstly people have a right of access to information held about them by agencies – so if you gave the petition campaign your email address, you can always check with Labour to see if it has somehow migrated its way into their fundraising and supporter’s databases. And if the information is used, then I recommend lodging a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

You should also publicise that complaint over social media (or, if you feel like it, by emailing a press release to Scoop – but social media is probably enough, because people like me will retweet it if we see it, and journalists will pick up an easy story like this).

Political parties are (sensibly) afraid of bad publicity, and this is the best stick we have to enforce ethical behaviour on them. Sadly, it looks like we may have to use it.

Not a good look if this is the official Labour view on it:

Te Reo Putake

Yep, you’re starting to get it! As long as they are contacted about the asset sales, then its not an issue at all. And given how big a deal asset sales is to most kiwis, just about every phone call and email from the left is going to mention it.

 

Women’s suffrage petition – Keziah Norton

There’s an online database of those who signed the women’s suffrage petition in 1893.

I found my great-great-grandmother.

Surname: Norton
Given Names: Keziah
Address: Woodend
Sheet No: 253
Town/Suburb: Woodend
City/Region: Canterbury

She was 61 when she signed, died in 1902 aged 70 and was buried at Woodend. She had arrived in Lyttleton on the Canterbury in 1851.

There are several other relations from Woodend also on the database, Nortons and Gibbs.

This is kinda cool.

Time to end asset petition farce

As a supposed Citizen Initiated Referendum the asset sales petition was always a politicised farce. It was known from the start that if a referendum was held it would be ignored by Government, as past Governments have done with past referenda.

But the Greens poured considerable resources into using the referendum as a between elections campaign tool. And as seems to be common practice these days Labour followed along.

As far as political PR stunts go Greens and Labour have been majorly embarrassed by failing to get the required number of signatures.

They are initially putting on brave faces, albeit considerably egg covered. Russel Norman and David Shearer are vowing to get back to gathering signatures again to get the additional signatures required.

I wonder how many of the Green and Labour troops are groaning with trepidation. A year long signature gathering campaign was a major slog. Now they are being asked to psych themselves again for another burst of pleading to the public.

For what?

If they get the signatures a referendum will be held, perhaps later this year – well after Mighty River Power shares go on NZX (this Friday), and quite possibly after Meridian as well some time in the next few months. Too toothless, too late.

A referendum would be a multi million dollar exercise in futility.

Greens thought they were onto a winning strategy where they could use taxpayer money to fund a long running party campaign leading in to the next election.

They have now lost face, big time.

And if they continue on with the petition they stand to gain little if anything more, and could lose more egg covered face.

If Greens and Labour can’t organise a successful petition together, how would the look organising a government coalition?

A referendum will have zero effect on the asset share sale programme. It will keep reminding voters of the ongoing CIR farce.

If Greens and Labour had any sense they would cut their losses and move on to something more positive.

But by the sound of Russel Norman’s response to the news yesterday the Green petition machine is likely to continue.

And Labour sound like they will continue – Anti-asset sales campaign not over yet – Labour

Talk about flogging long dead horses. I think it’s time to end the farce.

Did David Farrar sabotage the asset petition?

Russel Norman’s last tweet yesterday:

So if the National Party activist David Farrar signed the asset sale petition 13 times, did Nats organise this nationally?

Funny to see Norman referring to Farrar as a “National Party activist”.

Farrar has responded on Facebook:

Seeing the response to today’s joke tweet, I am thinking of becoming a professional troll. The waves of outrage are quite addictive!

Farra’s “joke tweet” was amongst an exchange on the number of disallowed signatures on the asset sale petition. On a Kiwiblog post Massive fail for Labour and Greens Farrar claims:

This is incredible. They spent around $400,000 gathering signatures for their asset sales petition, and they failed to get enough valid signatures.

They needed 308,753 valid signatures but fell short by 16,500.

That is a massive fail and gross political incompetence. They didn’t have to submit the petition when they did. They could have carried on getting more signatures to make sure.

I’m still staggered for now that despite spending $400,000 and having the entire memberships of the Labour and Green parties, and most unions, they proved unable to get enough valid signatures.  You could understand it if they were close to the deadline to submit – but they were not. They made a tactical decision to submit early for political posturing, and have ended up with egg on their face.

UPDATE: They claimed to have 400,000 signatures but got 292,250 valid ones. That means 107,750 were invalid which is a massive 26.9%. Maybe they should have put their paid petition gatherers on performance pay!

Here’s the offending tweet:

 ‏@dpfdpf
So was it wrong of me to sign the #assetsales petition 13 times? I used a different name each time, so figured that was fine :-)

I saw that tweet at the time, 8.37 pm last night. I can only see minor response to that tweet, Farrar then went out fot the evening (according to another tweet) and Norman was not very active, a few tweets defending the petition and then the one accusing Farrar.

Farrar was obviously joking. Norman must know this but is trying to score some political mileage by trying to portray it as an organised National sabotage of the petition.

Over the last year when the petition was gathering signatures I saw many quips and claims in social media that people had signed the petition using fake names – eg Mickey Mouse. It’s impossible to know if these commenters were saying what they had actually done or were trying to encourage others to do it.

I don’t agree with deliberately spoiling a petition but I’m not surprised, the Greens used what is supposed to be a Citizen Initiated Referendum into a party campaign tool, using it to promote themselves and to harvest contact email addresses, phone numbers and postal addresses (as did Labour).

So it shouldn’t be surprising that political game playing may have occurred with the petition. Norman played down a country wide 2011 campaign stunt by Green activists defacing National election hoardings.

Defacing petition forms is probably a degree worse but as a Citizen’s referendum it was farcical and futile, so making it more farcical doesn’t seem to be a big deal.

Not that I think Farrar signed 13 times, I highly doubt that he did, he was joking on Twitter. Some will have deliberately the spoiled petition, but there will be many reasons for invalid signatures.

Someone I know told me that a signature gatherer was so pushy they found it easier to just sign (again) than say no.

And a couple of examples from a petition supporting blog, The Standard, in Asset sales petition has more work to do.

tamati 9

I remember seeing a petition at an op shop on Dominion road. Was just sitting on the counter, with nobody actually supervising. Saw a bunch of girls in school uniform sign up, and nobody seemed to know this was wrong!

shorts 13

I wonder how many are disallowed due to them not being on the electoral role – given over a million eligible voters didn’t vote last election, one could surmise there’s a lot of young people whom may have signed simply not on the roll?

Yep as someone who spent a lot of time collecting signatures the number of people who had changed addresses were significant. And without a date of birth date the chances of identifying them on the roll would have been very poor.

I am actually not surprised at this problem. It is just what happens when you have volunteers talking to ordinary people and collecting signatures without the benefit of electoral rolls being on hand.

The Al1en 16

I signed the petition in the Labour party Hamilton office in Te Rapa.
I was told to only sign my name and date of birth.
And they want to run the country when they can’t even get a form filled out properly.
Good work, front desk nobody.

With consideration, I remember I queried it at the time and did put my name down, but I do recall seeing a lot of just names and birth dates. Hope that page wan’t pulled out for a scan by the clerk.

karol 23.3

I’m still concerned about the fact that I moved since I signed the petition – wonder if that makes my signature invalid.

So obviously it’s very difficult ensuring that only valid signatures are collected, and a high failure rate isn’t surprising.

Greens and Labour will have known there was a high error rate, as they were harvesting data off the petition forms, Duplicates and obvious bogus names would have been known about.

They delayed presentation of the petition. This was probably due to known error rates. But they miscalculated – and were under pressure to present the petition before Mighty River Power shares were floated.

Russel Norman could look at any number of reasons why the operation failed to make the required threshold.

Blaming David Farrar and a National spoiling campaign looks a bit desperate.

But I guess a highly party politicised “citizen’s” petition/referendum campaign is going to remain highly politicised.

Asset petition a data source for political spam?

The asset sale petition has now been presented to parliament. About 390,000 signatures have been counted and now need to be checked for validity.

In the meantime there have been claims made that data gathered with the petitions is being collated by political parties, to be used for election campaigning. Bin Man at Truth:

Data mining
All the people who signed the petition to stop our assets sales can probably look forward to an avalanche of spam from Labour and the Green Taliban in the run-up to the election, if reports out of Wellington are true. Apparently, the support staff for the left MPs are being made to enter all the details written on the petition forms. These will be collated into a database, all done at a cost to the taxpayer. It’s estimated that it will take each secretary about a week of data entry.

The petition form had space for Email and Phone, saying:

Stay connected

To keep up with the campoaign please provide your email and phone number.

Asset petition header

Providing email and phone numbers gave consent to be contacted about the Keep Our Assets campaign and will presumably be used to encourage saying No in the referendum.

But it is not clear who will own the data, and therefore who will be able to use the data.

And there is no definition of what “the campaign” refers to.

Labour and the Greens have effectively used the Keep Our Assets petition/referendum as an extention of their 2011 election campaign, it has given them a means of taxpayer funded continuous campaigning. This will continue until the referendum is held.

What then? Will the campaign continue until the election next year?

Labour and Greens were well aware that any referendum could and would be ignored by the Government.

So why have they put so much time and (taxpayer) resources into the petition?

It’s not difficult to see the  asset sales issue as simply a front for political campaigning, and the gathering of a political spam database.

 

Green snake oil petition

Greens will have always known the asset petition would be a paper tiger, futile in stopping the Government proceeding. Yet they put considerable resources into promoting the petition. Why?

It was always about political campaigning and using whatever public money they could to facilitate promoting the Green Party. In doing so they have expanded the Green machine.

IrishBill comments at The Standard:

(The Greens) will further strengthen and grow their campaign networks which will have a flow-on effect regarding closing the tradition gap between their polling and their result.

The Greens have used this as an opportunity to build a significant campaign machine and to break into Auckland in a way that will give them an extra couple of percent at least. Anyone who fails to understand that, fails to understand organising, and with it, fails to understand politics.

For Greens it was clearly always about political organising. And they have used Labour, who have obligingly tagged along. IrishBill:

Labour’s campaign team sucked badly (and continues to do so).

That’s a Labour insider opinion, and he’s right.

I’m not so sure how well Greens will do out of this. Some people may be very disillusioned when they find out the referendum is far too late and powerless.

And if they realise Greens have used them by overselling a product that would never deliver what they advertised they may suffer some backlash.

The snake oil petition was a high risk strategy by Greens.

Asset petition – a powerless pile of paper

The asset petition will be presented to parliament today.

Asset petition boxes

Many signatures, many people hoping to make a difference and stop the Government asset share floats. There’s been a lot of hard selling of the petition, especially by Greens and Labour in what is theoretically a Citizen Initiated Referendum.

Have people been sold false hope? Is this any more than a party PR push?

It has always been known that any referendum can and will be ignored, and the sales process will already be well under way by the time a referendum is possible.

This petition and referendum are likely to be nothing more than an indication of opposition to National’s flagship policy. And a means of taxpayer funded opposition party campaigning.

Some petition signatories may feel they have achieved something, but some may end up feeling over sold and under delivered by Labour and Greens.

The petition is a paper tiger, a powerless pile of paper.

Smart, green economics?

The asset petition is nearing completion. What does that have to do with smart green economics?

Greens (or Green employees) seem to be doing the final counting and collating.

Andr3wCampbell Andrew Campbell
Final counting of citizens initiated referendum petitions to stop asset sales. Formal handover to clerk next Tuesday

Petition - smart Green

That looks like a Green office by the look of the wall poster. Have Labour, Grey Power and the unions left it all to the Greens to finish off?

All that paper, all those treets, all that polluting manufacturing.
All the travel involved in collecting signatures.
All the time spent on collecting, collating, counting.

But that’s relatively minor. Sure, some parliamentary funds have been used employing petition workers, much MP time has been spent and much MP travel expenses have been clocked up.

But once the petition is handed over it starts another phase of expenses. State employees will have to count and check the petition to make sure there are enough valid signatures.

If the petition is successful, the costs will escalate as a referendum will have to be held. That will cost millions of dollars.

For what?

The Mighty River Power share float will have already been and gone. One or two other share floats will also have either taken place or will be well advanced. And it has been clear all along that the referendum will have no affect on the progress of the partial asset sales.

At best, if the referendum has a good turnout and if the referendum is strongly against the share floats all Greens and Labour will be able to do is say “We told you so”.

At what cost?

Smart, green economics?

Or futile, expensive political point scoring?

Russel Norman and playing politics

Russel Norman and the Green Party have launched a ‘Spring offensive’ to try and get enough signatures for their asset sale petition to initiate a referendum.

Greens launch drive for asset sales referendum signatures

“The Government’s asset sales programme is in crisis and the referendum campaign is on a roll,” said Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

He’s right, it is a campaign by Greens – an extension of the election campaign and relitigation of the parliamentary process.

“If the Government delays the holding of a referendum then they are playing politics with the issue against the will of New Zealanders.

That’s the height of hypocrisy, Greens are playing politics by hijacking the Citizen Initiated Referenda process to promote their politic views.

CIR are supposed to be a means of citizens expressing their opinion to politicians, not yet another way politicians can argue amongst themselves.

“It is only fair that a referendum is held as soon as possible to give the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders who oppose asset sales the chance to cast a vote against them.”

Greens keep claiming they are giving the people a chance to express their view via the petition and possible referendum, but if this were the case they would taking a balanced approach to guaging opinion.

The real Green motive?

This statement from Norman highlights their actual motive – they have a strong and fixed political opinion and they are using CIR to try and generate a vote of no confidence against a Government policy.

This is a blatant abuse of both the CIR and parliamentary processes. Greens are either cynically abusing our democracy, or they are abusing it through ignorance – so certain of their rightness that they think any means justifies their campaign. The latter is a repeating major flaw in Green thinking.

What was the Green position on the last CIR?

The Green Party were not so keen on listening to the vote of the people in the last CIR on smacking – they (along with other parties) chose to ignore the voice of the people then.

They are selectively ignoring or using CIR to suit their own political objectives, and the voice of the people is used went it fits convenience, or ignored when it doesn’t suit them.

Not arguing for MOM share floats

I’m not arguing for or against the MOM share float programme here – on that I’m not sure if the Mighty River Power float should go ahead at the moment, Solid Energy seems best left off the programme until a major improvement in their outlook, and certainly I prefer that not all the power companies were floated this parliamentary term.

I’m arguing against a misuse and abuse of our democratic system.

CIR should be for citizens

CIR should be for citizens. I’m totally opposed to any political party using CIR to promote their own political agendas, in effect the are petitioning themselves, which is absurd.

Is Russel Norman blind to his misuse of our democracy, or blatantly abusing it? Whichever it is he is certainly hypocritically playing politics while he accuses others of doing that if they don’t play his game.

Green defence flaws

There has been a concerted Green effort to try and defend the Blowing the whistle revelation that they are again employing people to soliticit signatures for their asset petition. There are basic flaws in their arguments. I’ve answered some of their claims.

bsprout: ” if the public largely supports the Green point of view doesn’t this mean that the Greens are able to present their views convincingly”

We don’t know if the public largely supports the Green point of view. And if this was so clear what the need for a petition and referendum?

The means of soliticiting signatures significantly diminishes any degree of convincing.

“while the $120 million spent by the National led Government to present the opposite view has failed?”

They are not spending that to contest the Green petition. They have not done any promotion of any share floats yet. If they were to use any of that money to campaign politically I’ll be criticising them as I’m criticising Greens.

You and others seem to be claiming that if National can spend money promoting the sales it’s fair game for Greens to use any taxpayer money to oppose them.

If National misuse taxpayer money that doesn’t justify other parties misusing taxpayer money.

It also doesn’t justify abusing the CIR process by hijacking it for what you seem to see as a counter campaign.

Re the $120m – you’re trying to compare quite different uses of money.

If the share floats go ahead do you think they shouldn’t do whatever is deemed necessary to optimise the success of the float?

If they don’t prepare properly and if they don’t promote adequately and then best price possible isn’t attained then the country will lose out.

Green grizzling at the costs of share floating hightlights their business ignorance.

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