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Digital Inclusion: Building Connected Communities with Privacy Best Practices

As the leaves begin to turn colors, and the days get darker and a bit drizzlier, it can only mean that the holidays are approaching. And with the holidays and family merriment come the inevitable scams which tend to run parallel. Many of these fraud attempts seek to manipulate the emotions of the intended victim by endeavoring to exploit trust, fear, or sympathy.

‘Tis the season (it’s always the season) to be on the lookout for phishing in emails, text messages, and suspicious links when looking for gifts, booking trips, or researching fun things to do for the coming year.

It’s encouraging perhaps, that we find ourselves at the intersection of various noteworthy awareness days, weeks, even months, that can help you make sure you have the tools to protect your personal information online. This week, the City of Seattle celebrates Digital inclusion Week (October 2-6) with its theme of “Building Connected Communities” through the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) brings together non-profit organizations, policymakers, and academics to advocate for national access to broadband. It advances digital equity by supporting community programs and equipping policymakers and civic leaders to act. Digital Inclusion Week (DIW) is an annual week of awareness, recognition, and celebration. With support from NDIA, organizations and individuals across the country host special events, run social media campaigns, and share their digital inclusion actions, hopes, and progress with the media, and the public. Over the past four days, the Seattle Information Technology department has participated in a series of educational blog posts, social media, and laptop distribution events for community groups.

Sharing the stage in October we also have Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

In the spirit of inclusion and equity, the City’s Privacy Team would like to raise awareness of the value of your personal data and provide some resources that can help us all protect our personal information online and reduce the likelihood we fall prey to bad actors. Let’s address some basics.

The Value of your Personal Data

The concept of corralling personal data can be daunting. Your personal data is valuable, and while we interact online, make purchases, or simply log on to our devices, we must often evaluate how best to protect the information we provide. Fortunately, a few baseline best practices can naturally become good habits along the way:

Use password management software. Do not write down or share passwords with anyone. Use unique passwords for your online accounts — and the more complex, the better. In crafting a password, make it make sense — to you. Think of it as modern-day poetry, but in upper- and lower-case letters with a few well-placed, discerning symbols to confuse your opponents and make you smile as you enter your award-winning password haiku with ease and rapidity.

Conduct security-sensitive activities at home. Do not utilize potentially insecure public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive operations such as e-commerce or online banking. Public Wi-Fi is less secure when there’s no password for access — and even then, Wi-Fi hotspots can be used by nearby hackers to steal your data. For more tips on using public Wi-Fi, check out the State of Washington’s Tips for safely using public Wi-Fi | Office of CyberSecurity (

Activate two-step authentication for all sensitive accounts. Ensure that all your sensitive accounts, shopping accounts, and financially related accounts have this level of multi-factor authentication. Whenever possible, force accounts to make sure it’s really you that’s logging in.

Protect the personal information on your smartphone. Smartphone users are statistically more likely to become victims of identity theft. Password-protect it. Use the timed lockout feature to ensure it locks automatically after a brief amount of non-use.

Follow the “front page” rule. Early in this author’s career, a wonderful mentor said, “Don’t write anything in an email that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post.” The same should apply to social media. You can use privacy settings all day long to control who initially sees your posts, but even the strongest privacy settings won’t prevent someone from re-posting what you shared.

Slow the roll on your debit card. In the event of fraudulent purchases, debit cards offer less legal protection than credit cards. A lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised debit card can result in your bank account being wiped without the use of your PIN number. Use a credit card instead and keep that debit card tucked away for backup only. If you must use it, sign up for text alerts from the bank requesting a personal approval response should the system sense atypical purchasing behavior.


In our connected world, online services allow us to shop, share, and conduct business. Staying safe online is more important now than ever. The resources below provide tips for managing your digital footprint while conducting common online activities.

For more information on digital empowerment please visit some of the great resources identified by the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Library, Seattle Housing Authority, and Seattle Schools.

Consider bookmarking the City’s Tech Talk blog link, and watch for future City initiatives, information, and tips designed to raise awareness around the importance of the importance of data protection.

Mobile Device Security

Managing Your Smartphone Data

Shift Your Settings

Social Media Privacy

Managing Your Online Privacy

Securing Accounts: Social Media

Identity Theft Resources

Washington Attorney General: Identify Theft Resources

Responding to Identity Theft, Fraud and Cybercrime

FTC Dashboard on Identity Theft and Fraud

Washington Attorney General: Data Breach Notifications

Internet Safety

Internet Safety for Kids

Online Privacy Safety Basics: Keeping your Family Safe Online

Privacy: A Guide for Washington Citizens

Online Safety Basics

CyberSmart Kids Presentation

Video Conferencing Safety

Seattle IT TechTalk: October is Cybersecurity Month: Are you #Cybersmart?

Tech Access and Learning Help for School Families

Seattle IT TechTalk: Technology Access and Learning Help for School Families

Generative AI

Oversharing with Generative Ai

How to Use Generative AI Tools While Still Protecting Your Privacy

Nathan Merrells is a Sr. Privacy Specialist with the Seattle Information Technology Department’s Privacy team.

The City of Seattle’s Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) oversees the City’s Privacy and Surveillance Ordinance and program, along with our Digital Equity Programs, including the Technology Matching Fund Grant program, reduced-cost internet opportunities, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and other programs. To learn more about these programs, visit Seattle IT is a trusted partner that provides secure, reliable, and compliant technologies, enabling the City to deliver equitable and responsive services to the public.