UN Admits Error in Publishing Staff's Signatures
and ID Numbers, No Accountability Yet
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
October 19 2008, updated June 30,
2011 -- The current UN's lack
of accountability and lack of respect for personal privacy, including
staff members, were demonstrated by a comedy of errors last week,
in a rare UN admission that "we made a mistake." [Update 6/30/2011 - link to the
page has been removed at the request of the UN: can provide the page if
requested by email.]
staff member's personal
information was put online and at risk, then after Inner City
Press reported on
it, the information was taken down. But the UN's spokesperson says
she will not
comment on it, and for now no one is taking responsibility for it, or
acknowledging having made the decision.
Wednesday October 15, UN posted on its internal website hundreds of
members' signatures and identification card numbers, in an attempt to
dissatisfaction with the current leadership of the UN Staff Union,
been critical of Ban Ki-moon's leadership. Staff members outraged at
their information publicized in this way complained to Inner City
were quoted in Inner City
Press' exclusive story published on the Internet at 6
p.m. Wednesday night.
Wednesday night, the UN without comment took down the signatures and
numbers, placing a blank petition in their place.
Ban interviewed by his iSeek, accountability not
Two days later the UN -- some
anonymous "i-Seek team" -- apologized on the site, stating without
being asked that senior management was not responsible. "Thou doth
too much," as one wag paraphrased Shakespeare in response to what we're
calling the UN's "wea culpa" message of October 17, click here to
Posted: Friday, 17 October 2008,
New York | Author: iSeek
We made a mistake. On Wednesday,
15 October at 1:15 p.m., the iSeek team posted a letter to the
Secretary-General on "a crisis in the Staff Union". The letter
included the names and index numbers of staff members who signed a
achieve free and fair elections (42nd Staff Council)".
Posting the names and index
numbers was a mistake and we apologize. The letter containing the names
index numbers was removed at 8:35 p.m. the same day, when concerns were
to the attention of the iSeek team. The text of the petition was posted
The iSeek story was not posted at
the request of senior management. It was posted at the request of
representatives of the concerned staff members who signed the petition.
The iSeek team
Press, subsequently trying to find out who made the decision, was told
iSeek would never, of course, publish anything critical of the UN or
management, and that a decision was made to publish the petition, and
write a short faux news story to introduce it. We will continue to
who was responsible.
Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele Montas
Inner City Press: there was
yesterday put on the UN’s i-Seek system a petition concerning the Staff
Union. My question is really not about
the petition but about how it was decided and by whom to put online the
signatures and ID card numbers of several hundred UN staff members and
that is consistent with both the privacy and/or sort of identity theft
staff members and the safety of UN premises given that supposedly these
the safe way to get into the building. Who
decided that this petition, which is opposing
the current Staff
Union leadership should be put online for thousands of people to see?
Spokesperson: I assume it was
put by the people who put
their signatures there.
Inner City Press: No, but I’m saying
that many people...if someone else in the UN system said I want to put
something in i-Seek, it doesn’t go up. Somebody
decides we’re going to put this one up. So,
Spokesperson: Okay, I can find
out for you who decides that, but in cases like this, if the people who
the petition wanted their names known it is... I
have to add, Matthew, that this is not a public
site. This is an internal site for UN
That thousands of people see. So,
guess not only...
Inner City Press: Thousands of
Spokesperson: Okay, if you say
Question: No, I mean, how many
UN staff have access to
Spokesperson: UN staff, yes. All UN staff have access to it, yes.
Question: And just whoever
decided to put it up; were
the people who signed the petition told, because I have heard
people that signed it that they had no idea that their signature and
information was going to be put online. That’s
not part of the petition. So, I’m just
asking; it’s just a question...
Spokesperson: I will ask
for you how it was done.
simple information -- how and by whom the personal information of 500
members was put online -- has not been provided, despite the "wea
culpa" acknowledgement that a mistake was made.
October 17 noon briefing, Inner
Press asked Spokesperson Montas
Inner City Press: This is just a
follow-up of the thing from yesterday. This
petition that went online with the ID numbers
and signatures of
people. Apparently it’s now been taken
down. Do you have any comment on
why? Was there a second thought, was
there a thought that there was problem having it online?
Spokesperson: First, as I said
yesterday, this is an
internal website. So I am not commenting
in a public setting like this one about an internal website, to start
okay? I told you that we would try to get the answer for you. But we don’t have to comment on this. And we have no comment. I
try to find out what happened, but I
also think you can try to find out on your own, Matthew.
Inner City Press: Some people
said that somebody made a big mistake in outing those online; in fact
Union passed a resolution asking the Secretary-General to take action
whoever the individual was. Are you
aware of that resolution?
Spokesperson: I am not.
despite on October 16 saying she would find out who put the staff
personal information and ID card numbers online, by October 17 Ms.
she would not find out, or would not disclose, and would not comment.
this reporter on
Icelandic television, www.ruv.is
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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