MacGregor-Dennis ‘outsources’ student email addresses

April 11, 2012, 3:27 p.m.

ASSU Vice President and current Executive candidate Stewart MacGregor-Dennis ‘13, along with a friend whom he declined to name, has paid for over $2,000 of personal and ASSU-related services through an ODesk account, including one task that involved giving access to student names and emails to third-party contractors to aggregate the data.

The account on ODesk has over 50 jobs posted since May 2011, including paying for Facebook “likes,” YouTube hits and Tumblr followers. MacGregor-Dennis denied ever paying for Facebook likes and YouTube hits, though he said he hired social media managers whose main responsibilities were generating likes, hits and followers.

Additionally, the account paid a third-party contractor listed by ODesk under the name “Rebecca S.”, living in the Philippines, to “scrape” first names, last names and email addresses of presidents, financial officers, additional officers and E-commerce officers of student groups from MyGroups, the ASSU’s student group software. The contractor organized the data into a spreadsheet in August 2011.

These student email addresses were all publicly available at the time, though the MyGroups system was later updated to require an SUID web login to access the information. This shift was made, according to director of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) Nanci Howe, out of consideration for students, who were receiving spam.

“It hasn’t been public in many years; we’ve directed them to the directory,” said Howe, whose department oversees MyGroups, since updated to MyGroups2. This means that only emails of students who had opted to have their emails publicly available would have shown up in this “scrape.”

The Daily has not been able to get into contact with Rebecca S., the ODesk contractor. Her job is listed as “complete.” Several financial officers for student groups reported receiving personal emails from MacGregor-Dennis over the past few months asking to meet and talk about what the ASSU can do for their organizations.

MacGregor-Dennis maintains that he has never broken University policy by paying for services through ODesk or directing contractors to student information. An email to Stanford Information Technology Services asking for clarification on the University’s policy regarding distributing publicly available student information has not yet been answered.

Other jobs on the ODesk account include a Social Media Manager who has been paid over $800, a Student Government Email Assistant who has been paid over $100 and a Tumblr blog follower who has been paid $299.38 dollars.

MacGregor-Dennis later clarified that the social marketing positions were largely related to marketing for the new eDorm and “several other business ventures” he was working on this year. His most recent ASSU Facebook updates have been “liked” by between 30 and 40 people, the majority of whom are fake Facebook accounts. They share similar “likes” in addition to MacGregor-Dennis’ campaign page, such as D9 music, a book about the antichrist and a company called MAK Financial.

“Facebook Like Generator,” “Entrepreneurship Website Content Creator” and “Get 1,000 views for my YouTube video” are other items purchased through the ODesk account.

The Tumblr blog follower’s job is listed as, “I need someone to follow other blogs on Tumblr for my blog, and then later unfollow other blogs on a different day.”

“None of it is ASSU money,” MacGregor-Dennis said, citing academic interest in social media. “All of this would be distributed among friends who are interested in the area.”

MacGregor-Dennis said he does not have a problem with students learning any this information. Students, on the other hand, have not taken kindly to MacGregor-Dennis’ strategies and what could amount to a political misstep.

“This is an area of academic research for me. I think there are huge social problems to be tackled [in the labor field], and I am happy to answer any questions about this,” MacGregor-Dennis said.

Brendan is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously he was the executive editor, the deputy editor, a news desk editor and a writer for the news section. He's a history major originally from New Orleans.

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