Was the Charlotte Observer right to request email addresses from local city governments?
Posted on 25 Jan 2011 by Justin Ruckman
You might have received an email in your inbox last week from the City of Charlotte, telling you your email address was just handed over to the Charlotte Observer as part of a recent Freedom of Information Act request.
I didn’t, personally, because I wasn’t registered to receive any city email updates; but some 20,000 others were, and the reaction has been mixed. (I use an anonymous-email-to-RSS service that lets me subscribe to city email updates unobtrusively.)
Here’s an article on Poyner.org that explains the situation in a little more detail.
Observer staff were debating using the email addresses to, among other things, solicit locals to participate in their citizen news website, Insight, but they have since promised not to, in response to a fair amount of negative feedback.
Obviously the Observer was legal in its request, but was it right to do so? They argue the email addresses were earmarked for journalistic purposes only, while others claim the distinction between journalism and business is not so clear.
So what do you think?