Questions for Seattle City Council candidates

Here is a list of questions we compiled to help candidates for Seattle City Council, members of the public, and press start to discuss privacy policy at a municipal level in advance of this summer’s elections. The questions fall into the following categories:

  • Questions about Seattle’s laws and processes
  • Questions about how Seattle does and should relate to other governing agencies
  • Questions about technologies
  • Questions about candidate’s experience with privacy issues

Questions about Seattle laws and processes

How much public dialog about privacy do you think we need here in Seattle? Would you devote staff resources and some of your time to this if elected?

What do think of the Mayor’s Privacy Initiative? What do you think the Privacy Principles should do more of or less of?

What do you think are the City of Seattle’s legislative responsibilities to protect the privacy of people in Seattle, what kinds of things do you consider? Are there things that seem off-limits to the city, or just not the city’s concern?

How can we ensure that privacy-related legislation that’s on the books actually gets enforced? What consequences would you suggest for departments, such as SPD, who fail to comply with privacy policies?

Questions about how Seattle should and does relate to other govt agencies

When would you say “no” to an information-sharing agreement with another government agency? To an information-sharing agreement with a private company? How would you inform Seattlites about these data-sharing agreements?

Would you be willing to accept money or technical assistance from another organization if it required that you hide the existence of the agreement, or the terms of the agreement?

What is your opinion of taking Homeland Security money to fund equipment to spy on our own citizens?

Questions about specific technologies

The Seattle Police Department deployed a ‘mesh network’ that could potentially be used to snoop on device locations in the city. Is there any reason you would accept SPD use of any intercept technology to broadly capture residents’ cell phone activity?

Do you support drones being used by the Seattle Police department or King County Sheriff’s? Why or why not? If yes, under what circumstances and under whose supervision?

Various attempts at drone legislation usually have a variant of requiring drone operators to log and report their activities. What is your attitude about disclosing this information to the public?

Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous. Do you see a need to put any legal controls on their use?  What is your philosophical position about legislation requiring that all private surveillance tapes be turned over to a law enforcement agency upon request?

Seattle City Light is spending millions of dollars to set up a system to replace current electrical meter with remote-controlled meters transmitting data in clear mode easily hackable.  What is your position on the following?

  • Requiring that City Light get explicit permission from each homeowner before installing these meters?
  • Requiring City Light to be responsible for making public any sharing of that data with any other organization?
  • Allowing people to opt out, or require City Light to have an opt-in policy?

Fake cell phone towers (IMSI catchers, also known as Stingrays) that can pick up all cellphone calls within a fairly large radius are being deployed throughout the country by police and other agencies. This means your cell phones can be tapped, too. How do you think this issue should be addressed in the municipal code?  Should it include mandatory disclosures?  Any exceptions for law enforcement?

Questions about candidate experience with privacy issues

Have you or any friends or family ever been monitored by the police or the federal government? If yes, without going into details, did it make you value your privacy more?

Have you personally taken steps to make your Internet and smartphone usage more secure since Edward Snowden revealed the NSA spying on US citizens?

If you could ask Edward Snowden one question, positive or negative, what would it be?

Do you think the police department in Seattle values your privacy? Why or why not? If you lived in Ferguson, Missouri, do you think you answer would be different?

Philosophically, do you think it is OK for police to surreptitiously install cameras and microphones in public places?  Do you think this information, including the manufacturer, locations, and cost, should be available to the public?