Multiple privacy breaches linked to Victoria councillor's email, city confirms
CFAX 1070 has learned that on three different occasions in 2021, internal investigations conducted by the City of Victoria determined that Coun. Ben Isitt’s use of information from emails collected using his position as a councillor contravened provisions of British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act.
In March, Isitt was found by the city to have caused a privacy breach during a social media dispute in January with what he later described as the “inadvertent” publication of personal information in correspondence involving a multiple sclerosis advocate who criticized his “white male privilege.”
In November, Isitt was found by the city to have breached the privacy of one or more constituents again after he used email addresses collected through his position on council to encourage participation in the city’s 2022 budget consultation process.
In December, Isitt was found by the city to have breached the privacy of one or more constituents for a third time after he again used email addresses improperly collected through his position on council to distribute a photo essay entitled, “A decade of service – and options for the future.”
Isitt acknowledged the first incident, but said he had not yet been made aware of the results from the latter two investigations when reached for comment by CFAX 1070 Friday Jan 7, 2022. “I have been advised that the city’s FOI officer is looking into complaints, but I have not been informed that the investigation is concluded, that any conclusions have been reached, or of any recommendations arising,” Isitt said at the time.
BEACON HILL PARK INCIDENT
On January 28, 2021, CFAX 1070 revealed that Isitt was attending a meeting of a committee of Victoria council remotely while at the same time doing work for Red Cedar Café (a non-profit recipient of both a City of Victoria emergency social services grant and CRD administered Reaching Home grant funding that the councillor had founded earlier in the pandemic) with his camera deactivated and microphone muted in Beacon Hill Park.
A CFAX 1070 listener spotted Isitt at the side of the road in the 100-block of Cook Street in the 10 a.m. hour on January 28 and inquired with CFAX as to whether Isitt was participating in the council meeting that was taking place at the same time at city hall. It soon became clear Isitt was attending to both tasks simultaneously while using a mobile device.
The revelation led to criticism of Isitt by Coun. Stephen Andrew later that meeting. “I find it quite offensive really to our citizens and the voters who have put us here that they are now calling-in to radio talk shows and sharing photographs of councillors that are meant to be at this table – in this meeting – and yet are wandering around in the Cook Street neighborhood,” Andrew said while addressing colleagues.
In a response to Andrew’s remarks, Isitt revealed he had been working at what he called a “volunteer position” with Red Cedar Café during various meetings of council over the preceding months, using a mobile device to participate with his attention divided. Isitt later tweeted that before being spotted by a CFAX listener January 28 he had “avoided public association with Red Cedar Café to avoid politicizing these important services.” Isitt apologized to council and the public February 4, 2021. “Maybe I should have started a radio station, but I’m not convinced that a radio station would have helped the community the same way as a pay what you can meal program for people in need,” Isitt said at the time.
Among many citizens critical of Isitt’s conduct following the January 28 meeting was Susan Simmons, a multiple sclerosis advocate who lives near Beacon Hill Park and had been critical of the negative impacts of council’s sheltering policies during the pandemic. Simmons took to Twitter after the January 28 meeting to opine about Isitt’s “#WhiteMalePrivilage.”
The next morning in what appeared to be a rebuttal, Isitt without warning published to Twitter copies of email correspondence between himself and Simmons dated years earlier.
‘When you wrote to me in 2016 asking for help advocating against the closure of the Victoria MS Centre, and I responded with the attached letter to the MS Society of Canada, you did not complain about me using my white male privilege and being a leader in the community,” Isitt tweeted, attaching two pieces of correspondence as images which were clearly legible when clicked on by Twitter users.
Simmons was initially unaware of the scale of what Isitt had just caused to occur, initially not knowing a privacy breach had taken place.
However, a City of Victoria privacy analyst told CFAX 1070 during the subsequent investigation that “the email that Susan Simmons sent to Councillor Isitt on December 4, 2016 contains her personal information as well as two other individuals.” Isitt had not sought the consent of Simmons or any of those involved immediately before publishing the correspondence to Twitter. CFAX 1070 is protecting the identities of the other individuals as well as the substance of their personal information Isitt published in the email.
Isitt quickly deleted the tweet, claiming the publication of the correspondence was “inadvertent” and apologized privately to Simmons for the non-consensual disclosure. The City of Victoria determined in the subsequent investigation “From the information obtained, the post was publicly available for less than an hour.” City of Victoria head of engagement Bill Eisenhauer confirmed to CFAX 1070 at the time that a privacy breach had occurred during the exchange and that “actions to prevent future breaches have been conveyed to Councillor Isitt to implement.”
FUTURE BREACHES NOT PREVENTED: CITY OF VICTORIA 2022 BUDGET VIRTUAL TOWN HALL
“On November 17, 2021, the city received complaints from three individuals regarding the use of their personal email addresses without their permission. As a public body under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the city opened a privacy breach investigation file to determine whether the complaints were a breach of FOIPPA’s collection, use and disclosure privacy provisions,” Eisenhauer says.
While the city did not confirm specific details of the November investigation other than the finding that a privacy breach had occurred, correspondence obtained by CFAX 1070 indicates the complaint involved Isitt’s use of email to encourage participation in the City of Victoria’s 2022 online budget consultations.
Results of the City’s 2022 budget survey were contained in a report received by council December 9, 2021. During that meeting of Committee of the Whole, Isitt asked, “When organized stakeholder groups mobilize in relation to these engagement exercises, should there be a correction factor? Is it just something council takes into consideration?”
Isitt then suggested the existence of a “public safety lobby that’s underway, it involves Victoria city police union, a number of members of the media, and clearly that’s had an impact in this survey.”
“I wasn’t aware of any other organized interest groups mobilizing to encourage participation in the survey so that’s why that’s the only one I’ve referenced,” Isitt added, not mentioning his own use of improperly obtained email addresses to encourage participation in the survey which would later be found to have caused a privacy breach.
Answering Isitt’s question at that time, staff advised council that there was evidence of one or more groups mobilizing. Council heard “secondly, you’ll see in the written correspondence as well, there were about 23 or so percent of the correspondence seemed to be generated from a kind of a form letter.” Staff added there seemed to be “… about six different points of view they were pushing. Another one was particularly around VicPD and reducing the funding to VicPD.”
The city later determined Isitt’s collection of some personal email addresses was not authorized by FOIPPA (Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act) and, as a result, the use and disclosure were also not authorized. This resulted in a privacy breach being found to have occurred.
FUTURE BREACHES NOT PREVENTED: A DECADE OF SERVICE
While the City of Victoria was already in the process of completing the report into the November 17, 2021 privacy breach, one of the images contained in an email sent by Isitt on or around December 14, 2021 in which one or more of the email addresses used were found to have been collected, retained, and/or used improperly investigation involving Isitt’s improper collection and use of constituent email addresses, additional complaints were received regarding yet another electronic mailing that took place December 14, 2021.
This time, the additional complaints involved email addresses used to distribute a “photo essay” entitled “A decade of service – and options for the future.”
The email, which contained more than a dozen captioned pictures, advised recipients that “during my decade of service as a city councillor and regional director, I have aimed to contribute in a modest way toward actions for a more inclusive and sustainable city and region.”
The email included an invitation for recipients to contact Isitt via his personal website email address. “In the New Year, I will be sharing a questionnaire to learn more about your priorities.”
In the final days of December 2021, a city privacy analyst wrote to one of the complainants to advise an investigation had found that Isitt obtains “individual email addresses either from email he receives via the mayor and council email address or to his councillor email address. The privacy breach occurs when he collects, uses and discloses these email addresses without first obtaining the necessary written consent that complies with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,” according to documents obtained by CFAX 1070.
While claiming he had not yet been made aware of the findings of the latter two investigations, Isitt told CFAX, “the other matters relate to an error with management of my email list from 2016. I have been working to resolve the issue and do not anticipate further problems going forward.”
When asked how many privacy breach investigations occurred at the City of Victoria across all departments in 2021, Eisenhauer told CFAX 1070: “Three privacy breaches occurred last year. There was the Susan Simmons breach in March and the Councillor Isitt breaches in November and December. In addition, there were four privacy complaints, one of which was not substantiated and the other three were quickly resolved.”
It is not clear what recommendations will be made following the finding of the third privacy breach of 2021 involving Isitt, but the city did advise a complainant in December that the latest recommendations will “go much further than previous recommendations.”
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Families are sharing photos and stories of their loved ones, who lost their lives in a mass shooting in Texas that killed at least 19 children and two adults on Tuesday afternoon.
Onlookers urged police officers to charge into the Texas elementary school where a gunman's rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, a witness said Wednesday, as investigators worked to track the massacre that lasted upwards of 40 minutes and ended when the 18-year-old shooter was killed by a Border Patrol team.
The six candidates on the ballot to be the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada are debating face-to-face in French, in Laval, Que.
A news conference about the shooting at a Texas elementary school broke into shouting Wednesday as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke blamed Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for inaction ahead of the latest in a long string of mass shootings in the state.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled plans to appear in person at a Liberal fundraiser in British Columbia Tuesday after RCMP warned an aggressive protest outside the event could escalate if he arrived, said a source close to the decision. The source spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
Several parts of the country, including British Columbia and Canada's Maritime provinces, are likely to see wetter-than-normal conditions this summer, according to AccuWeather's annual summer forecast.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says it has now confirmed a total of 16 cases of monkeypox in the country, all in Quebec.
A jury in Portland has convicted a self-published romance novelist - who once wrote an essay titled 'How to Murder Your Husband' - of fatally shooting her husband four years ago.
Do oil companies control the price of crude? CTVNews.ca asked experts to explain.
A social media video that captures the moment a man gets Tasered by a Vancouver police officer is prompting calls for more training for police going out mental health calls.
Things got messy at B.C. Premier John Horgan's constituency office Wednesday.
The province is not promising any additional help to a Coquitlam woman with stage 4 breast cancer who is having to pay about $1200 a month for her treatment.
Even though they cheer for opposite teams, a proposal by a Flames fan at Game 4 of the Battle of Alberta received a resounding "yes" from the Oilers-loving bride to be.
Edmonton’s School Resource Officer Program has received a passing grade in a new report that was presented to Catholic School Trustees on Wednesday.
Alberta's justice minister is facing criticism for "strange" and "remarkably unhelpful" comments he made in the legislature on Tuesday when an NDP MLA asked him to help fight crime in Chinatown.
Was your home damaged by the Ontario storm? Insurance companies say payouts could take weeks to process
The insurance industry says it could take up to six weeks to get an idea of how many hundreds of millions of dollars in pay outs will be required from the weekend storm that brought death and destruction to Ontario and Quebec, but that early estimates are substantial.
Police have released new video of a recent incident in which a vehicle was caught doing doughnuts and speeding along the shoulder of busy Ontario roadways.
People all across Ontario are getting creative when it comes to netting a secondary income, otherwise known as a “side hustle,” and many are turning to secondhand economies thriving on online platforms.
The City of Calgary has recruited three people from the commercial real-estate sector in an effort to get a new event centre to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome.
Those who haven't receive their bill by the first week of June are asked to contact 311.
After a massacre at a Texas elementary school, some are looking into safety protections against gun violence in Calgary's school system while mental health experts are offering advice for difficult conversations about mass shootings.
Quebec politicians were not pleased with the federal Liberals' comments on Bill 96 and Bill 21, firing back with a slew of protests and even raising sovereignty as the solution.
Quebec's public health department is set to give its first press conference on the growing monkeypox outbreak as the province recorded its 16th confirmed case Wednesday.
Indigenous communities in Quebec say the language law passed Tuesday will harm the education prospects of their youth and undermine reconciliation in the province.
As the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s mass shooting moves its public proceedings to Truro, many of the family members affected by the tragedy and their lawyers are boycotting the proceedings over the next week.
Former Chief Anchor Steve Murphy offers a timely perspective on the Mass Casualty Commission and the difference 30 years after the Westray inquiry.
Two more people have been charged with murder in connection with a fatal house fire in Nova Scotia’s Yarmouth County in March. Three people have now been charged in the case.
The Manitoba Government could turn to the military for help as it struggles with staffing shortages, overcrowding, and in some cases, temporary closures of emergency rooms.
The Manitoba government is hinting it may allow more alcohol sales through private channels to boost customer convenience.
Hundreds of residents in River Park South were left without power Wednesday evening after a pole was knocked down on St. Anne's Road.
New details are emerging about the tragic incident that killed 27-year-old Shelby Humble-Neale on Saturday.
Waterloo regional police say evidence of gunfire found in McLennan Park in Kitchener is connected to another shooting incident in the nearby area of Windflower Drive and Windflower Crescent.
Two 29-year-old men have been seriously injured following a collision in Baden, Ont., with one needing to be airlifted to a hospital outside the region.
'All it takes is one': Sask. RCMP partner with Washington police to publicize disappearance of Mekayla Bali
Saskatchewan RCMP and the Washington State Patrol announced a collaboration of efforts to locate Mekayla Bali, who was 16-years-old when she was last on April 12, 2016 in Yorkton.
A new art exhibit at the George Bothwell Library is hoping to examine and remove the feeling of shame associated with people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
For those looking to hop the border into Manitoba for their camping seasons, it started off on the wrong foot for Duck Mountain Provincial Park.
Police charged a 16-year-old girl with attempted murder in connection with an alleged stabbing in Barrie last month.
An Orillia man responsible for causing a head-on collision when he drove the wrong way on Highway 11 four years ago, sending a woman to the hospital with life-altering injuries, has been acquitted.
Provincial police are investigating an alleged sexual assault in Wasaga Beach.
The Prime Minister toured the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, which is working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
Saskatoon Police Service says that the use and presence of potent new synthetic opioids known as nitazenes are difficult to track and monitor.
A 48-year-old semi-truck driver was killed in in a rollover near Meadow Lake on Tuesday.
It’s a sign that summer is on the horizon. Farmers’ markets are opening in cities and towns across the north.
Health care appears to be one of the bigger issues for voters along the North Shore as they get set to cast ballots in Algoma-Manitoulin.
A candidate in the provincial election in Greater Sudbury has been named in a $306 million lawsuit related to last winter's trucker convoy in Ottawa.