Many tech companies that sell to government agencies are working to minimize the personal data their products collect — because in an increasingly connected world amid growing concerns around privacy, citizens demand it.
Zencity, meanwhile, is a slightly different sort of company from the others featured here. Its product doesn’t monitor people in a community but instead uses artificial intelligence to collect data points for government from internal sources like 311, as well as external sources like social media feeds and local news reports.
Zencity co-founder and CEO Eyal Feder-Levy said that its processes only collect data from sources that are publicly available anyway. Second, it anonymizes all the data its products collect in the interest of protecting privacy.
“Our goal is to show clients the trends that are happening,” Feder-Levy said. “It’s not important to know it’s this person or that person. We don’t even take that into our database.”
The third major privacy protection that Zencity puts in place is an algorithm aimed at removing any potentially identifying data, such as names or addresses or other incidentally added details. That really speaks to the guiding rule for not only Zencity but other gov tech companies as well: Focus on a specific use case while at the same time doing whatever it takes to avoid identifying specific individuals. Zencity, for example, wants to help local governments know what bus routes citizens think should be added. It does not, however, want to know which specific citizen takes what buses.
“It’s what our clients expect,” Feder-Levy said. “It’s what residents expect, and so it’s on us to adhere to that.”