City of Seattle Adopts First of Its Kind Privacy Principles

On February 23, 2015, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution approving its first ever set of comprehensive privacy principles.  The principles are also the first of its kind to be adopted by a major U.S. city.

The privacy principles guide the City of Seattle when collecting, using, and sharing personal information from the public. The principles include considering potential privacy risks when collecting and using personal information; minimizing data collected; providing notice and, if possible, choice about how data is used; securing data; and maintaining accuracy of personal information.

In a message to followers on Twitter, Mayor Ed Murray said the new privacy principles “create a comprehensive ethical framework in protecting privacy and building public trust.”

The Council also set a deadline of August 2015 for each City department to develop a “Privacy Toolkit.”  These Privacy Toolkits will consist of a package of actionable privacy standards that implement compliance with the privacy principles. The official  at: 

The following are the City of Seattle’s Privacy Principles in full:

What is Personal Information?

“Personal information” is any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual. Examples of personal information include but are not limited to a person’s name, home or email address, social security number, religion, political opinions, financial and health records, and racial and ethnic origin.

Privacy Principles

The City of Seattle collects personal information from the public so that we can provide many important services including community and critical infrastructure protection, 911 call response, waste management, electricity delivery and other services. We work to find a fair balance between gathering information to provide these needed services and protecting the public’s privacy.

While privacy laws protect some personal information, the information we collect becomes a government record that others can ask to see through public records requests. Therefore, it is important for you to know when and how your personal information is collected, how we use it, how we disclose it and how long we keep it.

The following Privacy Principles guide the actions we take when collecting and using your personal information:

1. We value your privacy…

Keeping your personal information private is very important. We consider potential risks to your privacy and the public’s well-being before collecting, using and disclosing your personal information.

2. We collect and keep only what we need…

We only collect information that we need to deliver City services and keep it as long as we are legally required and to deliver those services. Whenever possible, we tell you when we are collecting this information.

3. How we use your information….

When possible, we make available information about the ways we use your personal information at the time we collect it. We commit to giving you a choice whenever possible about how we use your information.

4. We are accountable…

We are responsible for managing your personal information in a manner that is consistent with our commitments and as required by law. We protect your personal information by restricting unauthorized access and by securing our computing resources from threats.

5. How we share your information…

We follow federal and state laws about information disclosure whenever we work with outside governmental agencies and in answering Public Disclosure Requests (PDRs). Business partners and contracted vendors who receive or collect personal information from us or for us to deliver City services must agree to our privacy requirements.

6. Accuracy is important…

We work to maintain and use accurate personal information for City business. When practical, we will work to correct inaccurate personal information. We also direct our partners and contracted vendors to follow the same guidelines