Jeb Bush Published Thousands of Citizens' Data, Including Social Security Numbers


At midnight on Monday, Florida Man Jeb Bush released the first chapter of his new e-book in an effort to pepper his potential presidential run with transparency. The selection is largely devoted Bush's prolific email correspondence during his time as governor of Florida, and it's accompanied by a trove of actual messages from real Sunshine State residents.

There's a slight problem, however. Bush's camp somehow forgot to redact the email addresses, full names, home addresses and even social security numbers of the former governor's pen pals — leaving the sensitive information for anyone to download, copy, share and exploit.

The emails have been available since December 2014, when the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting obtained them through public records requests. This, however, is not even remotely the same thing as putting them in one easily accessible place, as Bush has now done.

A screenshot from Jeb Bush's website.

The Verge parsed through the collection of emails, finding everything from "religious parables to praise of the governor's support of creationism to routine bureaucratic correspondence." 

But they also found much more private conversations, like pleas from Florida residents about employment and medical issues. One such email contained details about a child with a life-threatening medical condition, and it included the child's name and the mother's social security number, among other things.

The Daily Dot, which was the first outlet to report on the potential security issues involved in the mass of messages, spoke to a woman whose emails were among those in the archive. 

"I emailed Gov. Bush when the state was going through the initial insurance crisis," she told the Daily Dot. "I have never [given authorization] to publish the emails, but then [they] never said they were confidential or proprietary property of the governor's office. They were just emails."

It's unclear as to whether Jeb Bush — who claims that he spent about 30 hours a week answering emails — had legal permission to publish them. Some of the notes contain a message at the bottom: "Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from state officials regarding state business are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure."

His campaign already seems to be scrambling to fix the mistake, however; MSNBC reported on Tuesday that Bush has noted his staff would remove the private information.

But as T.C. Sottek at the Verge put it, the mass data dump doesn't bode well for any potential Bush presidential campaign. 

"At minimum, it shows a serious ignorance of the volume of sensitive information in the records and a carelessness about their disclosure," Sottek wrote. "Not a good look for someone who called himself the first 'eGovernor,' let alone a man who may want to sit in the White House."

h/t Daily Dot