Jeb Bush's email dump puts constituents' personal data online

The emails posted on a Bush website included personal data such as Social Security numbers

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor now contemplating a run for U.S. president, may not have privacy high on his agenda.

On Tuesday, Bush published online hundreds of thousands of emails he received during his time as governor, between 1999 and 2007. The emails touch on a range of issues including taxes, legislative proposals and affirmative action. Bush says they will form the basis of an ebook about his life as governor.

Many of them are benign. "Governor Bush, thanks for your continued commitment to our education system," says one from 2005. Another asks Bush to organize a symposium on data theft and fraudulent credit card transactions.

But some reveal people's personal information, including cell phone numbers, home addresses and even Social Security numbers, according to news reports.

The emails were posted "in the spirit of transparency" on a new website that launched Tuesday. They appear in text form, organized by date, and in downloadable Microsoft Outlook files.

The release of the personal data may have violated Florida state law, which holds that "Social Security numbers collected by an agency may not be used by that agency for any purpose" other than the purpose provided originally.

Zeke Miller, a writer for Time magazine, said on Twitter after an interview with Bush that his political action committee would remove people's personal information from the emails.

But the damage may already have been done, with the email text and Outlook files having been available for much of the day.

Right to Rise, the Tallahassee, Florida, PAC founded by Bush, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bush earned the nickname of "eGovernor" by virtue of making his personal email address public. "The biggest surprise is the volume of my voice," he said in an email to a reporter at The Palm Beach Post after his first month in office. "People listen to what I say and do. I am learning to show more self-restraint so as to not restrict a free flow of thinking that could yield a better decision."

A bit more self-restraint in handling other people's information might have yielded a better decision in this case.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service
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