The Story Behind The Release of 50,000 Houstonians Signatures

July 30th, 2014

Yesterday I blogged that a website released the names and contact information of over 50,000 Houstonians who voted to signed a petition to put on the ballot an initiative to repeal a discrimination ordinance.

Chris Geidner has an excellent report on the story behind that release:

One of the people who has strongly supported the HERO measure, Houston GLBT Political Caucus treasurer Noel Freeman, told BuzzFeed that he was the person who made a public records request for the petitions — and that he did so on the day they were submitted.

“If somebody feels that they’re being publicly shamed by these petitions being online, I think that says more about them than it does about the people who are putting the petitions online,” Freeman said on Wednesday. “If you’re embarrassed that your political views are on public display, then maybe you should rethink your political views.”

Although Freeman said he isn’t behind the website, he said that he knows who is behind the site and noted that he “shared them [the petitions] with a number of people. They got into the public domain pretty quickly.”

Though in an absurd twist of irony, the creators of the website are choosing to remain anonymous, out of fear of harassment.

In a twist, the people behind the website,, are themselves remaining anonymous. A person responding to an inquiry made to the email address provided on the website,, told BuzzFeed Tuesday night that they “aren’t identifying people associated with the website to protect our personal safety.”

The domain name was registered on July 3 through Domains By Proxy, a service whose purpose is to mask the identity of a person purchasing a web domain. The person or people making the petitions available to all defended their anonymity.

“The personal safety risks to the people who run this site are far greater than the risk to any one individual among tens of thousand who signed the petition,” the person responding to inquires made at the website’s email address wrote to BuzzFeed. “[S]ome people claim they will be the victims of harassment because of this site, but some of them have no problem coming after the folks on this side. People who have spoken out publicly in favor of HERO are already facing threats against their jobs.”

Freeman also defended the petition posters’ anonymity.

“We know who runs the website, and the people who run the website have requested to remain confidential. And we totally respect that,” he said. “I’m very much a public face of ‘the movement,’ and my own personal experience has given some people in the community pause. I’ve had people come after my job, I’ve had people do open records requests on my email because I’m a public employee. I’ve got video cameras on my house for a reason.”

The same group that posted the names and addresses of 50,000 Houstonians wishes to remain anonymous. Paging Alanis Morissette.
Though, let’s revisit Feldman’s quote:
“If you’re embarrassed that your political views are on public display, then maybe you should rethink your political views.”
Wow. I hope that privacy advocates can appreciate that people hold private views, and holding those private views promotes a whole host of positive attributes. This position is dangerous–if you have nothing to fear, what do you have to hide?
And you should note they are posting the names, by letter and zip code. Soon you can find who voted for what.