Obsolete software cause of 6,000 email addresses exposed: City of Red Deer

City is improving its software systems

About 6,000 email addresses were sent out twice to residents in a “careless” incident the City of Red Deer says is the fault of obsolete software.

Audra Lee Denny was one of the 6,000 people included in an email from the city about their Look n Book online booking service. Denny noticed straight away her email address was not the only one on the email.

“I felt it was a small breach of privacy,” she said, calling it careless.

Shelley Gagnon, Red Deer Recreation, Parks and Culture manager, said it was an error from their recreation software system. A system they are in the process of changing.

“We send out emails to our customers all the time and it’s done through a privacy mode, which is standard practice,” said Gagnon. “That’s how it went out, but an error in the system somehow moved everything from the Blind Carbon Copy box to the To box. We didn’t catch it until we started to hear from people.

“It’s obsolete and for two years now we’ve been working to obtain a new service provider.”

The email was sent out to users of the city’s Look n Book service letting them know of a change in the service’s system.

However, instead of sending the mass email to the 6,000 addresses using the ‘BCC’ function, the emails were entered into the ‘To’ field. This exposed the email addresses to each recipient of the email.

A retraction email was sent to the same group of people about 10 minutes later. It again showed all the email addresses to the recipients.

“We tried to retract it because we started to get phone calls,” said Gagnon. “Then it just happened again. We’re not sure what happened, we’re in communication with our current service provider to find out.”

Gagnon noted they send out emails all the time to let customers know about changes and this is the first time this has happened.

The city’s Look n Book service allows users to sign up for city programs and services. Their online system is heading to a shutdown later this week to allow the service to launch a new registration system.

The city does collect emails when people go to register for the Look n Book service.

Gagnon said they did consult with the city’s privacy coordinator and it was determined to not be a breach of privacy. But it’s not the city’s practice.

“It was a system error and maybe it’s a demonstration on why we’re moving to a new system,” said Gagnon. “We’re migrating all our information into the new system and we’re looking forward to it.”


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