City of Seattle affirms privacy as human right

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously this afternoon to adopt Resolution 31598, affirming privacy as a human right and aligning the work of the City’s privacy initiative with the right to privacy as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“As we continue to make innovative technology investments to improve our services, the City is handling increasing amounts of data,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Seattle is implementing a Digital Privacy Initiative to support public trust in the security and privacy of personal information.”

“The City of Seattle prides itself on being a leader in proactively protecting human rights beyond the status quo,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology. “The passage of this resolution is a monumental step towards extending human rights protections in the digital era we live in.”

In response to privacy concerns, the City of Seattle launched a privacy initiative in fall 2014 to strengthen the City’s privacy practices, establish protocols to educate City departments, and assess risks to the public when collecting data through the course of business. Through this initiative, both internal and external stakeholder groups were convened to review the City’s privacy practices and develop a City-wide privacy policy. Resolution 31570 was passed in February 2015, adopting the City of Seattle Privacy Principles to guide the actions of the City when collecting personal information from the public to provide services.

In December 2012, the Seattle City Council adopted Resolution 31420 proclaiming Seattle to be a Human Rights City, endorsing the human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognizing the importance of using the international human rights framework for cities to work on their commitment to protecting, respecting, and fulfilling the full range of universal human rights.


Join Us For Seattle Speaks: “Privacy Politics”

In our open data, cloud computing world, privacy is a key issue that continually needs to be addressed. The City of Seattle recently adopted its own set of Privacy Principles to keep our citizens informed and protected and to provide transparency.  Our department-specific  Privacy Tool Kits will be implemented in the coming months.

Seattle is taking the lead on privacy issues, but as technology changes, so will privacy initiatives.   With that in mind, the next topic for Seattle City Club’s Seattle Speaks series is “Privacy Politics.”

Bruce Harrell, Seattle City Council Member & Chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee

Join Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Seattle CTO Michael Mattmiller, Seattle PD COO Mike Wagers and others as they offer insight on topics like:  Are we losing control of our digital privacy?  Does releasing certain government-held information harm or help the public?

 Seattle Speaks is Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at Town Hall. You can even submit questions right now on the registration page.  Doors open at 6 pm. Because this event is televised live, audience members are asked to take their seats by 6:30 pm for the 7 pm program.

The Emmy-award winning Seattle Speaks series is presented in partnership with Seattle CityClubSeattle Channel and Town Hall.


Seattle poised to be leader in protecting resident privacy

The City of Seattle has taken the initial step toward becoming one of the first cities in the nation to establish its own privacy principles to protect personal information.

“Technology is constantly changing, and protecting the privacy of those who interact with the city is of utmost importance,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “The City of Seattle collects personal information in many City processes, such as paying a utility bill or in the form of video from our public safety departments. It’s critical that we strike the right balance between protecting individual privacy and the public’s need for a transparent and open local government.”

“We are demonstrating our commitment to the privacy and security of your personal information,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee. “This is tremendous work by DoIT and the interdepartmental work team to bring consistency and accountability in our day-to-day interactions with the public.”

In November 2014 the City launched its Privacy Initiative, led by the Seattle Police Department and Department of Information Technology, to define how the City collects, uses, and disposes of data in a manner that balances the needs of the City to conduct its business with individual privacy, and builds public trust.

“These principles are an important benchmark in Seattle’s innovative Digital Privacy Initiative. I look forward to working with City Council to adopt these principles by resolution in order to enshrine our values around privacy and to guide our future decisions and actions with regards to our people’s personal information,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who helped raise the issue of digital privacy at Council in 2013.

The first of three deliverables, a set of privacy principles, was transmitted to the Seattle City Council today. These principles establish a core foundation from which City employees will approach decision making when doing work that involves personal data and information. All city departments will use these principles to inform the collection, use, management and sharing of the public’s personal information.

The proposed privacy principles include:

  1. We value your privacy. Keeping your personal information private is very important. We consider potential risks to the well-being of you and the public before collecting, using and disclosing your personal information.
  2. We collect and keep only what we need. We only collect information that we need to deliver City services and keep it as long as we are legally required or there is a valid business purpose. When it is practical, we tell you when we are collecting this information.
  3. Using your information. When appropriate, we make available information about the ways we use your personal information at the time we collect it. If possible, we will give you a choice about how we use your information.
  4. We are accountable. We manage personal information in a manner that is consistent with our commitments and as required by law. We protect your personal information by restricting improper access and by securing our computing resources from threats.
  5. Sharing information. We follow federal and state laws about information disclosure whenever we work with outside governmental agencies to protect our community and in answering public disclosure requests. Business partners and contracted vendors who receive or collect personal information from us or for us to deliver City services must agree to our privacy requirements.
  6. Accuracy is important. We work to maintain and use accurate personal information for City business. When practical, we will work to correct inaccurate personal information. We also instruct our partners and contracted vendors to follow the same guidelines.


These privacy principles were created by an interdepartmental team comprised of more than 10 departments and an external Privacy Advisory Committee comprised of community members and privacy experts from private industry, law firms, and academia. For more information on the City’s Privacy Initiative, visit