Principles for an effective civilian oversight board

Below are some existing principles for civilian oversight. We’ve submitted them along with our proposal to Seattle City Council in hopes that they will help Council craft an oversight body that has real authority to influence policy.

Independence. The power to conduct hearings and report findings and recommendations to the public.

Investigatory Power. The authority to independently investigate incidents and issue findings on complaints.

Hearings. Essential for solving credibility questions and enhancing public confidence in process.

Reflect Community Diversity. Board and staff should be broadly representative of the community it serves.

Policy Recommendations. Civilian oversight can spot problem policies and provide a forum for developing reforms.

Statistical Analysis. Public statistical reports can function as early warning systems and detail trends, helping to identify potentially vulnerable systems.

Proposal for city officials and next steps taking shape

We’ve identified our founding members (see the About page) and begun work on a list of tasks for April. Roughly, here’s our plan:

  1. Identify our recommended positions for the Privacy Oversight Board (specify list of professions and expertise)
  2. Write up proposal to introduce the idea to City Council and the Mayor’s Office
  3. Contact offices of City Councilmembers who might be willing to sponsor legislation
  4. Create forum for public comment on this web site
  5. Develop outreach plan to engage other interested Seattle community members.
  6. Send press release alerting hyperlocal media outlets to the call for a Privacy Oversight Board.


A victory for privacy protection in Seattle city government

Our immediate goal is to advocate for citizen oversight of data collection, sharing, and retention protocols drafted by city of Seattle departments in response to Ordinance 124142, passed by City Council and signed by Mayor McGinn on March 26.

To the best of our knowledge this is the first municipal legislation passed in the USA to begin to define a regulatory framework for data management. We are proud of our city and grateful to our elected officials for taking this project on.

Seattle Privacy Coalition formed

Seattle Privacy Coalition has formed and given ourselves a working name (Seattle Privacy Coalition) and working vision (subject to amendment by community input):

“To support the city of Seattle in creating and maintaining institutional transparency while respecting the privacy rights of individuals who reside in our fair city.”