Leg-branch IT office closes listserv loophole

The legislative-branch office that manages the House’s mass e-mail service closed a loophole last week that allowed computer users to view the number of addresses that receive the e-mails from lawmakers’ offices.

A message sent from the House chief administrative officer’s office to Hill staff alerted offices that use the service, which sends updates to people who have signed up for them, stated that the number of addresses that receive the updates had been accessed by a member of the media.

It said that the e-mail data had been obtained through a standard listserv command and that the names of those who subscribe to the members’ lists had not been comprised. The Hill used the command while researching an article that was published Wednesday.

In response, the House Information Resource (HIR) office, which manages most technology functions for the House, shut down the feature that allowed the information to be accessed and limited sharing of the information to the office, which owns the listserv service.

HIR started offering the mass e-mail service in September 2003 in response to requests for the technology. To be part of a listserv, a constituent must opt into it. Of the more than 600 listservs reviewed by The Hill, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) had the most people receiving her information, with a subscriber list consisting of more than 176,000 addresses.