Participants in the Women’s March in Washington unknowingly sent their personal information to a group that said it was conducting a text message ‘head count’ last week – and the information could be shared with hundreds of consultants, activists and outside groups who organized the events.
While the third-party group that collected the cell phone data said it will only be shared with march organizers, it has not specified who the ‘organizers’ include.
The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and sister marches around the U.S. were led by a coalition of consultants, activists, and partner groups ranging from the Communist Party USA to Occupy Wall Street.
Marchers were encouraged on social media and by celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis to text ‘Count Me’ to the phone number 89800, so that organizers could conduct of a head-count of participants.
Data source: Celebrities and a social media campaign urged women – and men – who marched on Saturday to take part in a ‘text census’. But now it emerges that the data they handed over is available to scores of organizations
Celebrity backing: How the women who took part in the march were urged to take part in the text census
No warning: The message promoted by organizers of the march did not say what happened to the personal data of those who registered to the text census
But the Women’s March official Twitter page later announced that this census was not conducted under its banner, and the data was actually collected by a third-party group called the It’s Time Network, which is not affiliated with the march.
Many marchers who sent texts to the group are now furiously demanding to know how their phone information is being used, and are left wondering whether the collection effort was part of a marketing scam.
The It’s Time Network issued an apologetic public statement this week, but so far it has provided few details on how the cell phone data will be used outside of being shared with ‘official march organizers.’
The group did not respond to requests for comment and was apparently still scrambling to deal with the fallout.
‘I believe they are working on messaging still,’ the It’s Time Network senior manager Patricia Carroll told DailyMail.com.
The D.C. Women’s March was organized by a coalition of activists and community leaders.
Its national committee includes around 20 co-chairs, many of them political consultants, community organizers, and CEOs.
One of the co-chairs, Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, recently came under fire for making supportive statements about Sharia law and dismissing concerns about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia.
The country does not allow women to drive, severely limits their right to vote, and
Over 200 partner groups were also involved in the march, including political organs such as the Communist Party and the Democratic Socialists of America.
Others included Free the Nipple, a clothing store that sells t-shirts with photos of topless women, and an ‘anarcha-Feminist’ group called the Autonomous Womyn’s Front.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, a group that has had several board members accused of terrorism, was also a national march partner.
Notably, the It’s Time Network was not a partner group for the march – although it said that it had been in contact with organizers of the sister city marches and informed them of the plan to conduct a head-count.
The group’s owners’ business ties could raise additional questions about their interests in collecting the data.
What happened next: THose who sent a text received this message, which contained a link which led to a request to hand over an email address
All gone wrong: Amid questions over whether the census was official, one version of the march warned it was not part of their effort
Lack of clarity: This is the only statement on what will happen to the cell phone and email data handed over to It’s Time Network – but the women’s march ‘organizers’ are in fact a huge list of partners, all of whom appear to have access to the data
The California non-profit group was founded by husband-and-wife environmental activists Betsy and John McKinney as ‘an inclusive community of people and organizations working collaboratively to accelerate the full empowerment of women and girls.’
The organization seeks to create a national network of women to push city mayors to institute an array of progressive policies, including increasing public support for biofuel companies.
That issue is close to home for the founders. John McKinney owns a biofuel company called Columbia Biogas that lost out on a proposed plant because it failed to secure public funding in Portland.
The It’s Time Network published a ‘Mayor’s Guide’ last year to provide mayors with ‘checklists for supporting the advancement of women and girls in their communities.’
The group says it is working to build a ‘network’ of women who can lobby their mayors on a local level.
The guide advocates for policies on girls’ education, human trafficking, and domestic violence.
It also contends that mayors need to support certain environmental policies if they want to help the advancement of women and girls – the development of biogas power stations.
Census backers: Betsy McKinney’s It’s Time Network now holds the cell number of everyone who registered for their ‘census’. She is the wife of millionaire John McKinney, a biogas power station developer. Her manifesto for women’s equality says biogas generation will help equality. His family made its fortune in oil
‘[W]e need to work together to eliminate waste by increasing efficiency and by turning ‘waste’ into a resource,’ said the guide. ‘Encourage the development of biogas facilities.’
The advice could be helpful for John McKinney’s company, Columbia Biogas. He was vying to set up a $55 million biogas facility in Portland, Oregon, but the deal fell through in 2012 – reportedly due to a lack of public funding.
Public records show that McKinney was registered as a Portland lobbyist at the time and had numerous contacts with city officials about the biogas plant.
Although Portland Mayor Sam Adams initially supported the plant, there was a local outcry about subsidizing it with public money. McKinney said the construction couldn’t move forward without city funding, and the proposal collapsed.
We share their vision and are committed to supporting their efforts by providing them with information and data critical to their mandate. Please note that your data is securely protected, and your information will not be shared with other parties outside of official march organizers
It’s Time Network. But the march’s ‘organizers’ are scores of partner organizations
According to the Columbia Biogas website, the company remains interested in opening similar plants in Oregon.
The millionaire McKinneys are unlikely to find favor with the Communist Party. He is the scion of a wealthy Pennsylvania family which made its fortune in oil.
The It’s Time Network has not said whether it will personally use the phone number data it collected from marchers to support its own efforts, including the mayoral program.
After Women’s March organizers announced they were not affiliated with the group or involved in the data collection, participants used Twitter to slam the It’s Time Network.
Some demanded that the group delete their information while others hinted it could face a class action lawsuit.
In response, It’s Time Network issued an apologetic statement on its website – but gave few details about how it would use the phone data.
The group acknowledged it was ‘not affiliated with or endorsed by the [March] organizers’ but ‘we share their vision and are committed to supporting their efforts by providing them with information and data critical to their mandate.’
‘Please note that your data is securely protected, and your information will not be shared with other parties outside of official march organizers,’ said the It’s Time Network.
Outside of its mayoral program, the It’s Time Network also organized a conference for women’s issues in Baltimore last year. However, the event was cancelled due to unrest in the city over the shooting death of Freddy Gray by Baltimore police.
Free The Nipple: The cause supported by Scout Willis, who walked around Manhattan on a warm day in 2012 topless to promote it, will have access to women’s data
Bring down the capitalist system: The Communist Party USA is one of the other partners who will be able to access cell phone numbers and email addresses which were part of the census
It’s Time Network was originally incorporated under the name The New Founding Family, which was billed as ‘a new social enterprise in development’ and ‘a framework for supporting and making visible the emerging New American Majority.’
Public records show Betsy McKinney is chairman and her husband John is director.
The New Founding Family claimed to be recruiting new ‘founders’ to replace the Founding Fathers and rewrote the Declaration of Independence in a more progressive framework.
The group changed its name two years ago. It is run from their $4million home near San Francisco.
Betsy McKinney, the non-profit’s founder and president who has been described in media reports as a ‘consultant’ to the group, says in her biography that she is an activist and philanthropist and previously owned an eco-conscious retail store in Telluride, Colorado.
It is unclear why it closed.
She drafted the group’s ‘Declaration of Interdependence,’ which calls for inalienable rights to ‘safe food, clean water, shelter, education, health care, protection, freedom of information and equal opportunity.’
But it also produced a 140-page ‘mayors guide’ to ‘accelerating gender equality’.
Among its recommendations were ‘encourage the development of biogas facilities’ – something which her husband’s company is engaged in. There was no mention in the guide of the commercial activities of John McKinney, who is the charity’s director.
McKinney has founded other similar organizations, including an apparently defunct group called The Founding Mothers, ‘a network of women’s networks to support women’s full empowerment as we step into active and full partnership with men.’
She and her husband also run a charity called the Faraway Foundation, which previously oversaw a 960-acre ski estate in Telluride, Colorado.
The McKinneys founded the charity with a Colorado photographer who owned the ranch and passed away in 2006.
The Faraway Foundation gave the It’s Time Network over $1 million in 2015, the group claims on its website. However, public tax records show that the It’s Time Network took in a total of just $118,000 in contributions in 2015.