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Mitigating privacy risks of evolving technology

By Ginger Armbruster, Chief Privacy Officer

A new decade means new tech. As emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning disrupt every industry, government must capitalize on opportunities to operate more efficiently and deliver better services while mitigating threats to cybersecurity and protecting privacy. 

Enter the City of Seattle’s Privacy Office, part of the Seattle Information Technology Department, which conducts hundreds of privacy reviews each year on technologies the City uses to deliver needed services.  The reviews ensure new and existing City programs appropriately manage and protect the public’s information. 

Data Privacy Day, held annually on Jan. 28 to increase awareness of privacy and data protection issues, presents an opportunity to highlight some of the new and innovative technologies the Privacy Office is tracking across City government. 

  • Employing advanced technologies to improve the quality of emergency response calls. 
  • Using marketing automation tools to conduct more efficient and targeted resident outreach to deliver programs and needed services. 
  • Exploring intelligent city technologies to improve traffic and building safety.  
  • Using contracted unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to improve watershed asset management. 

Each of these technologies offers opportunities for improving how City government delivers services. Introducing advanced technologies also requires privacy risk reviews to determine if the public’s personal data may be inadvertently affected.  

Artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision making have elected officials and academic thought leaders considering equity concerns as machine learning and decision making may amplify inherent human bias.  

The goal of the Privacy Program is to support these initiatives while offering methods to reduce negative impacts on personal data privacy. To learn more about how the City meets its privacy commitments through the Privacy Program, visit the website