• Can new Seattle policy protect your privacy

    By: Essex Porter

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Seattle seems surrounded by surveillance cameras.

    "I don't pay too much attention to them, honestly,” said Troy Meyers, when he stopped to talk with us downtown. “But I do think we're losing a lot of our privacy so.” 

    Traffic cameras, red light cameras, license plate readers, the city has a lot of ways to track us. 

    After an uproar that led to the shutdown of the Seattle Police Department's private Wi-Fi and video network last year,  the City Council today was briefed by the interagency committee that's developing a comprehensive privacy policy. 

    City councilmember Bruce Harrell is a leader of the effort to set strict rules about how privacy will be protected, when information and video will be retained and shared. 

    Asked if citizens truly have much to fear,  Harrell responded, “I think we do. I think that individuals interface with the city government. They provide credit card information, they provide personal information and it gets to a city government that does interact with the FBI and other agencies.” 

    Members of the Seattle Privacy Coalition applaud the effort, but worry about its effectiveness. 

    “The efforts the city is talking about to restrict the use of the data that is passes on up to the feds or that it collects, that's all totally pointless,” said David Robinson. Robinson says if a federal agency wants video or information the city has collected, they will find a way to get it.

     Surveillance video can solve crimes, can keep people from being hurt. So City Attorney Pete Holmes says it's going to be a difficult balance.

    “Most people would acknowledge it doesn't make a lot of sense to not put technology to use if it can make us safer. So again, it's finding that balance,” Holmes said. 

    An interagency task force today briefed council members on the challenges of writing a city privacy policy. 

    They expect to have a draft ready for the council to review by next spring.

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