Seattle Aims to Be First City in U.S. to Create Data Privacy Guidelines

Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Mayor Ed Murray (photo: Elaine Thompson, AP)

Seattle may soon become the first city in the nation to adopt policies protecting the use of personal data.


An initiative launched by Mayor Ed Murray has spurred discussions among local leaders and started a process for developing privacy guidelines by next year. “As we continue to make innovative technology investments, we need to implement practices that support public trust in the security and privacy of personal information,” Murray said in a formal announcement.


Officials hope their city will lead the way for other municipalities to establish rules detailing how data can be collected and stored, while keeping in mind the concerns of citizens for how their privacy might by affected by such work. City Councilmember Mike O’Brien admitted he doesn’t “even know how data is being used” by the city, according to Government Executive.


Some instances of city data collection are paying a utility bill, renewing a pet license, browsing a web page, or signing up for an email list. Emergency services agencies also collect some types of data.


The first step calls for creating a committee of academics and privacy “thought leaders” to advise on the creation of the new guidelines.


Michael Mattmiller, the city’s chief technology officer, informed councilmembers that the initiative will, among other things, “develop a holistic framework” for the publishing of data.


The plan is to draft the policies by March and a “privacy toolkit” by June. Then, the city council will review them and vote on their adoption.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Seattle Looks to Create Comprehensive Digital Privacy Standards (by Michael Grass, Government Exec)

City of Seattle Launches Digital Privacy Initiative (Office of the Mayor, City of Seattle)

City of Seattle Privacy Initiative Overview (City of Seattle)

New Public Data Collection Technology Increases Security and Efficiency, Reduces Privacy (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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