Too transparent? Montgomery Co. resident email addresses published

WASHINGTON — Montgomery County may have found the line between government transparency and your privacy.

It started last week, when a Bethesda-based activist group called MocoVoters asked for all the email addresses used by residents to subscribe to various newsletters issued by county agencies.

The Washington Post reported that the county determined that by law it had to say yes.

And because all public records requests are posted on the county’s website DataMontgomery, that meant those email addresses would be there for anyone and everyone to see.

For at least a few days, anyway. The list has since been taken down.

Robert Lipman, who heads the MocoVoters group, said he’s decided against using any of the email addresses offered up by the county.

But once the downsides of the public transparency law were uncovered, it started leading to similar requests that seem a bit more dubious.

Bethesda Magazine noted that someone claiming to be Lipman also asked for all of the phone numbers subscribed to the county’s emergency alert system. It was rejected right away, and Lipman said he had nothing to do with that request.

The other request came from a supposed “Nigerian prince” who wanted to invest millions of dollars in the county, but just needed someone to help him for “political and security reasons,” which is a spoof of a well-known email scam that’s been around for years.

In the meantime, the County Council is already working to amend the law to ensure that email disclosures would be exempt from public information requests in the future.

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