Many of the 18,000 names on Labour's database of email addresses appear to have been supplied unwittingly by people who protested against early childhood spending cuts.
Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater has claimed on his website that names from the petition, organised by teachers' union the New Zealand Educational Institute, were among those held on Labour's database and revealed by a security flaw.
Labour insiders confirmed they were aware of an email from NZEI to those who signed the petition, sent on Friday, explaining that some of their names had ended up on Labour's database.
The email addresses were obtained from tens of thousands of postcards calling on the Government to reverse cuts to early childhood funding. People who signed the postcards were told they were destined for Prime Minister John Key, but they were presented to Labour MP Sue Moroney instead.
Labour then uploaded the email addresses on its database, supposedly so it could contact people who protested to tell them that Mr Key had refused to receive the postcards.
But, according to the NZEI email, only some people appear to have received such an email.
The incident raises fresh questions about the information kept and stored on party databases and whether people who sign petitions or contact political parties should be made aware that their information may be used for other purposes.
Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth and secretary Chris Flatt did not return calls yesterday.
Cameron Slater has been blogging about this for the last few days, but we've only had time to digest it this morning. While we have digested the information, the revelations seem to be causing a degree of dyspepsia for the Labour Party. They have been caught red-handed harvesting e-mails from the NZEI database, then using those e-mails to promote campaigns and policy releases.
The story continues:
But party insiders rejected suggestions there was a breach of privacy because details of those who took part in the postcard campaign would have been available under the Official Information Act had they gone to Mr Key's office.
It appears Labour is also using technology that allows it to "track" emails sent to it, enabling it to find out whether its emails are being opened or forwarded to someone else.
But sources said that tracking technology did not enable trackers to "harvest" the email addresses of anyone who received the material that had been forwarded.
Labour is quick to accuse National of running attack lines crafted for it by those Australian bounders, Messrs Crosby and Textor. But of course the New Zealand Labour Party contracts overseas as well. Blue State Digital is a Washington-based internet strategy and technology company, with strong links to left wing political parties in the USA and UK; and New Zealand.
We have little doubt that the Labour Party has engaged the services of Blue State Digital to advise it on issues of communication with its support base, and with the public. We strongly doubt however that Blue State Digital gave the Labour Party any advice on internet security as BSD is a professional business, and the error made by ther Labour Party and exposed by WhaleLeaks represented the height of amateur involvement.
In the meantime the Labour Party needs to front up and explain how e-mails were sent to 18,000 people whose e-mail addresses had been collected by the NZEI, the union representing primary and ECE teachers. Those people filling out postcards opposing changes in ECE funding did not agree to their e-mail addresses being harvested by the Labour Party.
This is awfully embarrassing for the Labour Party. What else awaits them in the WhaleLeaks file?