Seattle Launches Data Privacy Initiative

The city will re-examine how it uses, retains and deletes data across all departments, while “engaging with privacy leaders in Seattle.”

by / November 3, 2014
The city of Seattle announced Nov. 3 that officials would create a citywide privacy initiative intended to show the public how the city collects and uses data. The announcement comes after controversy in past months when civil-liberties advocates protested the quiet deployment of police-operated cellphone trackers.
 
“The trick that we really need to work on as part of our privacy efforts here in the city is to help the public trust in what we’re doing,” said Seattle Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller. “There were some issues over the past couple years where the city made some decisions around technology, and we didn’t take that step of engaging the public to help them understand what we’re trying to achieve, and that’s created a bit of a gap at the moment.”
 
Councilmember Bruce Harrell explained that the city will re-examine how it uses, retains and deletes data across all departments, while “engaging with privacy leaders in Seattle.”
 
The city gathered a team of stakeholders that includes officials from police, fire, electric, transportation, information technology, law and library departments. The team will “create a set of principles that govern how the city approaches privacy-impacting decisions and a privacy statement that communicates the city’s privacy practices to the public." The team will also develop a plan to educate city departments on the new privacy practices and establish a method for measuring compliance.
 
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray also announced the creation of a privacy advisory committee that includes privacy researchers, practitioners and community representatives to provide the city with guidance on best practices and estimates on potential impact of proposed solutions.
 
A completed privacy statement and plan are expected to be submitted to the city council by June 2015.
Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.