In 1997, I signed up for my first AOL account and heard the familiar little jingle, “You’ve got mail!” Now, 14 years and several e-mail accounts later, I receive more e-mail than I care to.

Now, The Charlotte Observer would like to add theirs to the list. The newspaper is using the North Carolina Public Records law in requesting information municipalities have on hand regarding residential e-mail and home addresses, and telephone numbers.

The legislation was written to create transparency in government, making sure the media could serve as the “watchdogs” against government and the elected officials themselves operating outside of the lines of their jurisdiction; and to keep the citizenry informed. It was not, however, created for the private marketing use of the paper, or any business for its profit.

The Charlotte Observer’s request and the existing rule, while legal, makes possible for any business or organization to request the data for their own use.

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 1,000 businesses members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and the greater Lake Norman region is opposed to releasing individual citizen data to any organization or business, regardless of its use.  It is a violation of the trust between government and its citizenry.

Residents should feel free to contact City Hall or their elected officials, and enjoy communication without the fear that their private data will be used for commercial gain.  While we encourage healthy business growth and the spirit of free enterprise, the Lake Norman Chamber supports legislation that safeguards the private citizen’s personal data.

If The Charlotte Observer feels that the newspaper itself cannot adequately serve as a vehicle to solicit reader and citizen opinion, then perhaps it should turn to the option many businesses practice each week – take out an advertisement in their publication or a local paper, Internet media source, or magazine. There are several here in the Lake Norman region, with significant market penetration and readership, which would be happy to sell an ad any business, organization, or competing newspaper for that matter.

– Bill Russell, CCE IOM
President & CEO
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce