Privacy and information valued as a step forward to creating privacy rights for Portlanders

On November 5 and 6, 2018, the City of Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights, Smart City PDX and the Mayor’s office worked together to explore how the City of Portland can become better data stewards for Portlanders.

Council work session on September 25, 2018.

We started by updating Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Council commissioners on fundamental concepts of privacy and data protections—in the time of big data and advanced analytics—in a work session on September 25.

We invited experts on privacy policies from two of the most proactive cities in the United States to share their expertise on privacy policies from Oakland and Seattle: Brian Hofer, commissioner at the Privacy Advisory Commission in Oakland, CA; and Kelsey Finch, from the Future of Privacy Forum and developer of Seattle’s privacy risk assessment.

After this work session, our team started working on a citywide framework for privacy and information protection. Judith Mowry, Office of Equity and Human Rights; Elisabeth Perez, Mayor’s Office; and Hector Dominguez, from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Smart City PDX program; took the lead on this work.

We looked into Seattle’s privacy principles and privacy frameworks from other cities and noticed that the language was mostly centered on city data. Another approach is what the European Union has done with their General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, and how they have derived a list of rights for their residents. However, GDPR context is only consumer data, which applies to commercial transactions involving personal identifiable information and not to government data. GDPR was also motivated by the recent data breaches from Equifax and Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data mining abuses, and defines a clear structure for data governance that includes a specific privacy protection officer.

Without forgetting that our main goal was to revise how we can improve trust in the communities that we serve, our group decided to focus on human rights for privacy and information protection and how the most vulnerable sectors of our communities are affected by the lack of clear rules to protect their personal information. We saw an opportunity to think about privacy principles differently and having a human-centric approach to our challenge.

What about, if rather than principles, we would work around privacy rights for our communities? What would be different? And how hard would that be to implement? What kind of new responsibilities would be created for the City and the communities themselves?

Hector Dominguez, Heather Patterson and Ginger Armbruster sharing experiences of the work on information privacy in Portland, Oakland and Seattle on November 6th at the Old Church in Portland, OR.

Hector Dominguez, Heather Patterson and Ginger Armbruster sharing experiences of the work on information privacy in Portland, Oakland and Seattle on November 6th at the Old Church in Portland, OR.

Those questions are complex and important. So, we invited Ginger Armbruster, chief privacy office in Seattle, Heather Patterson, commissioner at the privacy advisory commission in Oakland, and Kelsey Finch, from the Future of Privacy Forum, to help us to develop a general framework for privacy and share their expertise on these topics with city government employees and the Portland community.

Our team coordinated a creative human-centric exercise on November 5 to explore what our privacy principles would look like when looking through a human rights lens. Members from the Office of Equity and Human Rights, Smart City PDX, Mayor’s Office, Office for Community Technology, Information Security Team, and the City Attorney’s Office developed a set of values based on what is most important for Portlanders.  

Following this work, our team invited organizations that are part of the Digital Inclusion Network (DIN) and other groups that work locally on privacy and data equity to a community engagement discussion on November 6 at The Old Church. Ginger Armbruster, Heather Patterson and Hector Dominguez shared different challenges and work on privacy and data protection in Seattle, Oakland and Portland. The conversation with participants at the event was centered on how communities are included in local discussions, and challenges in evaluating privacy and information protection in emergent technologies that cities are implementing.

We ended our work meeting with City attorneys, who helped us understand what language and roadmap might be needed in order to develop a framework of policies and procedures that could be implemented in the City based on these new values for privacy and information protection.

Our next steps are focused on transforming those values to rights and principles that can be submitted to Portland City Council for adoption. We have formed a core development group that will prepare a draft of those rights in the coming weeks.