Have You Emailed Your City Counselor? – Your Private Information Is Now More Public than You Think

Have you ever sent an email to a Corvallis City Council member or maybe even the Mayor either through Corvallis’ website or through, for example, Oregon’s Sierra Club chapter?  Maybe you supported the bag ban and sent an email through Sierra Club to City Councilor Mark O’Brien letting him know your opinion.  Try searching for your name and “Corvallis” in Google’s search engine – you’ll find that your entire email, according to the City of Corvallis’ contact page, is “available for inspection by the public.”


If you sent an email through the city’s contact page, you probably already know about this public email policy – according to Corvallis City’s webmaster it’s an Oregon State law – and frankly it may not bother you one bit.  Hopefully you read the gray-highlighted privacy notice at the top of the contact page that reads,


“All email sent to and from City Staff, the Mayor and City Council is considered public record and is available for inspection by the public. Email sent to the Mayor and City Council are automatically posted to an online email log.”


The words “email log” at the end of the privacy notice are an actual link to this log that you are welcome to peruse at your leisure.


But if you sent an email through Sierra Club, you never received such a privacy notice, and you may not yet be aware that most of your email address (only the “@emailhostx.com” section is hidden), your full name, and your home address are now available for public display.  In many cases, so is your home phone number.  While Corvallis’ contact page doesn’t require you to provide your address, Sierra Club does, and it’s included in your email.  There are many people who need to hide their personal contact information for safety purposes – it’s extremely surprising that Oregon State or the City of Corvallis website would not have code in place to automatically hide such potentially sensitive information from public viewing.  At the very least, an actual person should review these emails and remove such information before it’s posted publicly.


If you’re one of the many Corvallis residents whose personal contact information is now easily accessible online, contact the City of Corvallis’ webmaster at Corvallis.Webmaster@corvallisoregon.gov to request that your information be hidden from public view.

By Genevieve Weber