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Smart City PDX explores methods for public participation in surveillance technologies

News Article
A summary of the events done in November and December 2023 on effective public participation in surveillance technologies.

The International Association of Public Participation (IAPP) has created a framework for participation, which defines public participation as a process that involves the public in decision-making. This process uses public input to make better decisions with a better understanding of what is being asked for by the community. 

This framework has five levels: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, and empower. The engagement done by Smart City PDX teams in the past has included everything from information sharing to collaboration with the community. This covers almost all the spectrum of IAPP. Empowering Portlanders means prioritizing public participation in the final decision. We continue to look for more input on how to empower communities about surveillance technologies issues. 

The surveillance technologies policy specifically directs us to explore oversight and effective public participation.

Public events

The Smart City PDX organized two public workshops to explore different frameworks. These workshops explored how the community can be involved in the use of surveillance technologies in Portland. 

The virtual workshops happened on November 15 and December 6, the first of which included a short introduction to frameworks for public participation. The second event was a deep dive discussion about pros and cons of these alternatives. Below you can find a recording of the presentation about the frameworks on public participation:

The following report includes a summary of these frameworks for public participation. This report also mentions the main feedback and comments we received. The report is available in English and Spanish. 

Asking the experts 

Our team also organized a digital literacy panel: ‘Meet the Experts on public participation’. The panel was held on Dec. 1, 2023 and included three amazing experts: 

  • Helen A. Hayes, from the McGill University’s Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy in Canada,  

  • Brian Hofer, Chair of the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission and Executive Director of Secure Justice,  

  • Michele Gilman, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development at the University of Baltimore School of Law. 

The panel were asked formally prepared questions on public involvement before opening the discussion to the group in attendance, who was then able to ask any questions of their own. This included democratic assemblies, privacy commission, and strategies for democratizing technology. View the conversation in the video playlist.

Next steps

The Smart City PDX team is preparing additional public events on surveillance technologies, including a Digital Safety Fair sometime in Spring 2024! Stay tuned to the Smart City PDX events page for updates. 

Please send any comments and suggestions to