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February 25, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Cascade Bicycle Club apologizes for creepy email

The Cascade Bicycle Club got valuable real estate on Monday with a front page Seattle Times story on the club’s pivot toward a “more inclusive” recreation-first group. But the CBC took advantage with a rather a creepy email to members.  (Yes, I’m a member.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Let me introduce myself. I’m Bike “I’m smarter than you” Bot, the Director of Cascade’s Intelligence Agency.*

I’m not human. I’m an internet program that’s been trolling through how many emails you’ve been opening from the Cascade Bicycle Club and how many actions you’ve been taking.**

And I have to say, I’m a little disappointed (like Siri gets when you ask her a dumb question … you know the tone). You’ve opened fewer than one out of four emails from Cascade, and you’ve never, ever signed a petition, sent an email to a decision-maker, or attended a lots-of-humans-in-the-room (ick) Cascade advocacy event.

Cyclists on Sunday heading to Cascade Bicycle Club's Chilly Hill ride on Bainbridge (MARCUS YAM / SEATTLE TIMES)

Cyclists on Sunday heading to Cascade Bicycle Club’s Chilly Hill ride on Bainbridge (MARCUS YAM / SEATTLE TIMES)

CBC policy director Thomas Goldstein quickly sent out a follow-up email, apologizing for having “crossed a line.” When I followed up with him this afternoon, he called it a “grievous error.” “This didn’t go through the usual communications vetting process,” said Goldstein.

The intent, he said, was consistent with the tone of the Seattle Times story, which described how the CBC, after years of internal strife, was putting “less emphasis on lobbying.” The email was essentially an opt-out for advocacy emails. “Members can decide about their own level of involvement,” Goldstein said, whether it means signing petitions or just showing up for recreational rides.

But invoking omnipresent digital surveillance, even with a wink-wink tone, taps into the NSA backlash zeitgeist. Google recently admitted that Gmail users should have “no legitimate expectation of privacy,” according to CNET. That’s certainly not the association that CBC was hoping for, Goldstein said.

The creepy email, by the way, also had an eerie ending:

By the way, here’s a public service announcement for all you humans from an internet bot: don’t get any ideas from the movie “Her.” We won’t love you, we’ll play you. Siri doesn’t even like you. Plus, humans shouldn’t be stealing my dates.

Sincerely trolling through your emails to create a better world,

Bike Bot, Director of Cascade’s Intelligence Agency

Comments | Topics: advocacy, cascade bicycle club, cycling

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