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Summary from the co-design event on surveillance technologies on December 13, 2021

News Article
The main purpose of this community event was to work collaboratively with community members interested in helping our Smart City PDX team to develop key components of the surveillance technologies policy.

The City of Portland needs modern surveillance technologies policies that guide, regulate, and provide proper governance and oversight of their deployment, use, and management, including information derived from such technologies.

What did we ask in the co-design event?

The event was focused on exploring three main aspects of surveillance technologies that will help the policy development:

  • Defining Surveillance Technologies

  • Community Impacts of Surveillance Technologies

  • Governance, Transparency, and Accountability

Participants broke out into small groups to talk about the discussion questions. Comments were recorded on a collaborative whiteboard.

Jamboard that shows many digital sticky notes. Summary of comments is included in the text on the news page.
Figure 1. Screen capture of a JamBoard page exploring the definition of Surveillance Technologies.

The whiteboard was also left open for two weeks after the event for participants to add additional feedback. This option did not receive additional feedback.

What did we find together?

The following is a summary of the comments and findings our team received in this event.

Comments about surveillance technologies

  1. Technology is continuously evolving. 

  2. The future is uncertain. It is impossible to “future proof” any policy that we make today.

  3. Quality over quantity. An over complicated definition loses its meaning. 

  4. Everyone has unique and specific experience with surveillance. 

  5. Transparency and acknowledgment of potential harms to the public. 

  6. Observations about human behavior are also surveillance. 

  7. There is a need for deeper and broader awareness about surveillance technologies in Portland. 

How are surveillance technologies impacting everyday Portlanders? 

  1. It is hard to know how surveillance technologies are impacting Portlanders because there is not a lot of transparency or information about when/where we are being surveilled. 

  2. Surveillance by employers can lead to harmful outcomes.

How do injustices show up?

  1. Location and distribution of surveillance. 

  2. Biased data – biased data might categorize certain people or groups in certain ways, targeting people unfairly. 

  3. Consent – requiring consent to collect data is desired but also seen as sometimes unrealistic. 

What are the most critical issues that the City of Portland should be paying attention to as it relates to surveillance technologies?

  1. Employers

  2. Schools – both K-12 and Higher Education

  3. Health and healthcare

  4. Contracts with private businesses

  5. Transparency about the ways that personal data is being used or could be used

How can the City build greater transparency and accountability for how they use surveillance data? 

  1. Transparency about the ways that personal data is being used or could be used. 

  2. Public engagement should be inclusive and accessible. 

  3. Privacy impact assessments can provide more transparency about the intrusion into privacy. 

  4. Surveillance policy should prohibit collaboration with organizations (public or private) that can cause harm to our community.

What structures can be put in place to mitigate unjust and negative impacts of surveillance technologies?

  1. Pay community members from our most vulnerable, targeted, and marginalized communities to participate.

  2. Standards of privacy should be part of the City’s procurement process. 

  3. Make it clear to the community how surveillance is or could be impacting them. 

Should the City also regulate private entities in how they use surveillance technologies?

  1. Private entities should be regulated, especially if they are collecting surveillance data that could cause harm to an individual or group. 

  2. Businesses using surveillance technology like cameras should be required to provide notification of surveillance, including what information is being collected and how it will be used.

  3. Any private businesses that contract with the City to provide services to residents should be held accountable to privacy standards. 

Final comments of the event

The issues recorded in this event are important to the Portland community. The scope of the ongoing surveillance technologies policy is limited to the city government and bureaus. The City may have limited control on some of the issues of concern highlighted in this community event. Future policies will look into some of these issues. 

We encourage community members to follow these developments by joining our mailing list, following the Smart City PDX twitter account, or visiting our website for the latest news. 

Portlanders can submit comments by email to Remember that any information submitted to us becomes public records and it is subjected to public records laws. 

A summary deck describing this event findings and how we collected and processed feedback can be accessed in this document:

The JamBoard with raw notes and feedback is here.

For more information about the surveillance technologies policy and future events visit the project page: