We had a promising conversation at last night’s Public Safety and Civic Rights budget workshop. In addition to letters in support from the Citizens Technology and Telecommunications Board (CTTAB) and the Human Rights Commission, it was a great help to have the support both the West Seattle Blog and maybe most of all, Brendan Kiley at the Stranger, whose article was cited to me by one legislative aide as the impetus for a more than one briefing yesterday. Can’t appreciate or fight for our free press enough.
It sounds like privacy oversight is in the works, although what form it will take remains to be determined and we’ll be keeping a close eye on it. With the right combination of luck and annoying persistence, we’ll have a role in shaping it. Councilmember O’Brien is taking the lead, Councilmember Harrell told us tonight, but Harrell himself made a strong statement of support for the formation of a citizen’s advisory board. Councilmember Burgess pointed us in the direction of Redlands CA as an example of privacy activists having input into policing, so we’ll check that out.
FWIW, here’s what I MEANT to say tonight to Councilmembers Harrell, Burgess, Rasmussen, and Licata, at the Public Safety and Civil Rights budget workshop meeting. As to what I actually said — that’s God’s own private mystery, as Sailor would say.
Seattle needs a strong privacy process. Today, there’s none whatsoever, to the detriment of all. There’s no Chief Privacy Officer, there’s no privacy oversight board, there’s no formal consideration of privacy, and there is no documentation of that non-consideration.
This lack comes with a cost. For example, the surveillance cameras that the City installed and then removed from Cal Anderson Park, according to the fiscal note with Ordinance 123411, cost the City $145,800 to install, deploy, and then remove.
The City’s inability to address privacy concerns also prevents full deployment of the City’s already installed mesh network, designed to assist emergency first responders.
The lack of oversight resulted in the surprise purchase of drones, later boxed due to privacy concerns. It has resulted in the installation of 28 unusable surveillance cameras along Seattle waterways from Alki Beach to Alaskan Way to Ballard. The cameras are reportedly disabled, but their fate is in limbo, and they have already cost taxpayers $5 million.
We can’t go on this way. Please, make privacy protection a funding priority this year.”