In a ham-handed effort at transparency, the likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush just released a trove of emails from his time as Florida’s governor—but the emails included confidential messages, personal information and even social security numbers from thousands of people. What was he thinking?
The un-redacted email dump was first identified by the Verge, which found emails that, among other things, discussed the firings of public employees. In some emails, petitioners sent their social security numbers to Bush, who was famously responsive to email inquiries from his constituents.
A simple analysis by our own David Yanofsky found at least 205 numbers in the e-mails formatted “xxx-xx-xxxx” or “xxx xx xxx”—the common formats for social security numbers—and spot checking suggests that is indeed what many of are.
Florida’s transparency laws are among the broadest in the country for reporters and citizens seeking to access public records, and journalists have already started to plumb those depths to learn more about the leading contender from the establishment wing of the Republican party. The release of his emails is an effort by Bush to get ahead of those requests and control the narrative around his term in office. “I was digital before digital was cool,” Bush said in December.
But when public records are released by the government, personal information is typically redacted. In this case, the emails have been published as-is. While political operatives aren’t known for their online security chops, in a world where cyber-security is increasingly a political issue, the clumsy transparency push here is an embarrassing error.
Just today, President Obama announced the creation of a new cyber-security agency in the wake of the security breaches at major US banks and Sony Entertainment. (The latter led to additional sanctions against North Korea.)
Bush’s team hasn’t responded to our request for comment, but you can be sure it will be preparing to talk about this incident at upcoming primary debates.
Update: Bush tells reporters his staff will take down personal information from the site: