Board member censured for failing to protect KPFA listeners’ email privacy

“None of your business.” That was board member Tracy Rosenberg‘s response at the local station board meeting this weekend when pressed on how she had obtained the email addresses of more than 5,000 KPFA subscribers and donors.

The issue arose in early March, when KPFA subscribers received phony email messages promoting the controversial and unpopular Morning Mix program. The emails purported to come from KPFA but in fact came from Media Alliance, which Rosenberg heads. The phony Morning Mix emails linked directly to Media Alliance’s database, which then collected information about the recipients’ viewing habits and actions.

KPFA’s board chair Margy Wilkinson asked a group of board members from both sides of the political divide to investigate. They presented their report at the April 16 board meeting, expressing great concern about how critical proprietary information had been obtained by an unaffiliated organization, in violation of listener trust. Their investigation confirmed that the misappropriated email addresses came from the official voter list used in KPFA’s 2010 election, which had been released only to Pacifica national election supervisor Renee Asteria and KPFA local election supervisor Oriana Suportas.

Critical KPFA voter information released

One of the members of the investigating committee, Sasha Futran, told KPFA’s board that the release of the voter emails could compromise the fairness of future balloting, and that KPFA had a responsibility to keep its subscribers’ data private, and “not have it just be passed around to various individuals.” Futran said at least 175 members had unsubscribed because of the fake emails. “Why should KPFA have to suffer 175 people opting out of receiving our official, real, sanctioned email because they got an illegal email that appeared to be from us?” | 3 MINUTE AUDIO CLIP OF FUTRAN

Rosenberg responded that it was her prerogative to use KPFA voters’ emails as she saw fit. She claimed to have received the emails from Pacifica’s lawyer, Ricardo DeAnda, in order to send out a negotiated apology from Pacifica after a judge ruled against the network in its attempt to nullify staff votes to swing last year’s board election its way. (Incidentally, the apology was never sent).

Upon hearing Rosenberg’s claim, board member Dan Siegel immediately emailed DeAnda, who quickly replied that he never gave Rosenberg any lists.  “As a board member, she baldly lied to us, we all heard her,” said Dan Siegel after reading DeAnda’s message aloud to board members. | 1 MINUTE AUDIO CLIP OF SIEGEL

KPFA’s local board passed a resolution censuring Rosenberg and asking Media Alliance to destroy all copies of the KPFA subscriber email list in its possession. A second resolution censuring Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt for her role in the matter was tabled to give Engelhardt time to respond.

“Everybody knows this was a wrong thing to do,” said board member Matthew Hallinan “Anybody who has organizational lists knows that those are treasures, you don’t let those lists go to anybody else because you lose the trust of your membership. If KPFA members felt their lists were going to different people, particularly people with particular political agendas….no one would want to be on it and it would hurt the station tremendously.” | 2 MINUTE AUDIO CLIP OF HALLINAN

Rosenberg sits on both the KPFA and Pacifica boards, and is the chief proponent behind the cancellation of the Morning Show and the targeting of dissident staff for layoff.

You can find the minutes and the entire audio of the board meeting here.