In a disturbing development yesterday The BFD learned that a Labour MP, Marja Lubeck, was using robo-calls, automated messages to call people in the Kaipara ki Mahurangi electorate suggesting they should be vaccinated, which then gave them options to connect to make a booking or to find locations where they can be vaccinated. The recording also mentioned that the calls were paid for by Parliamentary Services.
The call was received on one of my sources personal cellphone. Electoral roll information does not contain contact phone numbers, just names and addresses.
Those of you who have not yet been vaccinated will know that you are being bombarded with text messages and emails by health authorities. That information comes from your National Health Information database. That information does include your email and your contact number, because it is usually held or collected by your doctor or if you have been admitted for treatment at a hospital.
It would seem to be a rather expensive and hit and miss if they were calling every person in the electorate. In any case, this can’t possibly be the case as one of my sources who received a call reports that his wife did not.
Which leaves more questions unanswered.
I called the number that made the calls and heard the following message from an answering service:
I left a message with Community Engagement enquiring about which source provided them with the numbers they were calling, who engaged them, and who paid for the messaging? At the time of publishing, no response had been received.
I also attempted to get an answer from Marja Lubeck, via Twitter and also by email:
After two hours I received this email:
Kia Ora Mr Slater, You’re in luck that I’m such a diligent worker and just checking my emails before finishing for the day, came across yours. I’ll have a response back soon. Regards, Marja
Eleven minutes later I received this response:
Kia ora Mr Slater,
Further to my earlier email, the calls are all about encouraging as many people as possible to get vaccinated this week as part of Super Saturday.
The numbers rung are those we have on our local database and are in no way connected to Ministry of Health information on who has been vaccinated. If someone rung had already been vaccinated, they are given options to support the vaccination drive.
The calls and the calling script were signed off by Parliamentary Services and are within parliaments rules.
This is all part of the drive to get New Zealanders vaccinated and we hope it can play a part in increasing our vaccination rates this weekend. Trust this clarifies.
Marja Lubeck is wrong in at least one of her claims. These are unsolicited calls and are therefore captured by our anti-spamming laws. Her message is promoting a service, but she may have an out as electronic messages that provide the recipient with information about goods or services offered or supplied by a government body are excluded from the act.
It is however extremely annoying to recipients, so I suspect her attempt has angered voters rather than encouraged them. The actual local MP Chris Penk is probably hoping that she keeps on sending these annoying messages.
What is not clear is how one of my sources ended up on her database, with his mobile phone details available to Marja Lubeck.
The Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, also responded to my tweet:
Others have also reported the same robo-call on Twitter:
On the surface, this appears to be a breach of privacy and over-reach by an MP who should have neither private contact details nor medical information of constituents. Despite the assurances of Marja Lubeck it remains to be seen how she obtained the contact details of at least one of my sources.
One of my sources will be taking the advice of John Edwards and laying a complaint today with Parliamentary Services and also with the Privacy Commissioner.
Members of Parliament should not be giving medical advice, they should not be cajoling people into undertaking potentially harmful medical procedures and they shouldn’t be spamming and bullying them via telephone.
This is yet another of those small steps that are leading us down the slippery path towards totalitarianism. It must stop.
Please share this article so others can discover The BFD.