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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.

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