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Smart City PDX prepares information privacy guidelines to support next generation of digital services for city government operations

News article

At Portland City Council in May: Citywide Privacy and Information Protection Principles


Smart City PDX, in collaboration with Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office and the Office of Equity and Human Rights, is taking a new set of guidelines to Portland City Council to help protect private and sensitive data managed by the City of Portland. These privacy and information protection principles emerged from the need that local governments must prioritize and plan for emergent information technologies used in government services. Together, we are building the next generation of digital public services and we want all Portlanders to participate in these processes and their benefits.

The meaning of the City Council resolution

If City Council approves the resolution, city staff at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and Office of Equity and Human Rights will be empowered to work with other City of Portland bureaus to identify and develop a process for creating, reviewing, an implementing and strengthening equitable and anti-discriminatory policies and procedures that promote the Citywide Privacy and Information Protection Principles. This would include determining the staff and budget resources needed to implement this process as part of an overall Data Governance strategy for the City. Additionally, staff would be directed to make recommendations to assure community involvement in the review of City procedures, practices and policies.

Portland city government collects data and information for different purposes and we need to assure equitable services while following our values for racial equity and providing access to people living with disabilities and other marginalized communities as a critical component in assessing outcomes. These same communities can also be more vulnerable to the misuse of data, which highlights the importance of safeguards that guides institutional practices and informs the community of our commitment to their privacy.

Resolving complex issues that our city faces like homelessness, traffic congestion and people’s mobility, transition to clean energy, and safe spaces for all may require multiple agencies to exchange data. Without clear rules, and resources devoted to managing data and information with modern standards, this type of agile, responsible data sharing won’t be possible.

One of the main priorities in our Smart City PDX program is to implement best practices in information management that make the City of Portland a better and more trusted steward of data. Developing these principles took the involvement of city staff from our information security, legal and equity teams, and experts involved on privacy efforts at the City of Seattle and City of Oakland. After our first draft was ready last year, it took several months to get feedback from community members, technical advisory bodies and all bureaus, resulting in the draft resolution to be submitted to City Council.

The balance between transparency, privacy and data utility can also be complex

The City of Portland’s Citywide Privacy and Information Protection Principles include asking ourselves about the value of collecting personal information in the first place. The goal is to make sure the City only uses data for a well-defined purpose that brings value to the community. By promoting transparency in how data and information is used, our City can make sure to provide a fair, equitable and accountable processes in the services we provide.

City Council will consider the Citywide Privacy and Information Protection Principles resolution on June 19. Read the proposed principles here. For more information about the work on privacy and these principles send an email to: smartcitypdx@portlandoregon.gov or visit www.smartcitypdx.comSign up to receive project updates by email.