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Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt breached privacy rules 3 times in 2021, city determines

Councillor says mistakes were made in managing email lists and problems have been fixed
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Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt was found by the city to have ­committed three privacy breaches in 2021 related to ­incidents he says involve ­sending ­newsletters to ­recipients whose emails he obtained through correspondence to his city email address, and posting on Twitter a resident’s letter that included personal information of two people he didn’t have consent to share.

The city said in a statement the three breaches were the result of two investigations. The first investigation, launched in the spring after CFAX 1070 radio talk-show host Adam Stirling shared an image with the city of Isitt’s Jan. 28 tweet of a resident’s letter, concluded in April and has been resolved, the city said. Based on interviews with participants in the breach, the city concluded the tweet had been online for less than an hour.

Isitt was told by city staff that his tweet violated the privacy requirements in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act because the letter contained personal information.

Isitt said in an interview that when he realized he had shared personal information by ­tweeting the letter, he deleted the tweet and apologized privately to the person whose letter he shared. The resident said in an email the apology was ­appreciated but not necessary as her email address is publicly available on her website.

The other two breaches relate to complaints by three people that their email addresses were used without their permission. The city said the use of some email addresses was not authorized because the collection of the addresses was not authorized by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Isitt said the complaints are the result of a mistake managing his email lists. He said in 2016, he sent a newsletter encouraging participation in the city’s budget process to people who had not subscribed to his mailing list, but whose information he had obtained because they had recently written to his city councillor email address.

Isitt believed he had removed the people who had not subscribed to his mailing list, but when he sent out a newsletter in November he heard from some who were still receiving his emails but said they had not subscribed.

“It’s been, I guess, a technical error arising from that original mistake, but that’s the one I do regret and I’ve worked diligently since then to ensure that those contacts are no longer on my mailing list,” he said.

The city is required to investigate all potential breaches of privacy.

The city’s information access and privacy officer is not aware of a privacy complaint against any other councillor during his time at the city.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com