McClatchy News Service reports that there are substantial privacy and civil liberty questions concerning surveillance technology that the Seattle Police Department has bought:
More than a year after Seattle police promised to not turn on a network of surveillance cameras and communication nodes installed as part of a federal port-security grant, the department still hasn’t released a draft policy on how it will use the equipment and protect citizen privacy.
The installation of the 30 cameras and a wireless mesh broadband network came shortly after the Police Department’s purchase of two aerial drones, also with a Homeland Security grant, and also without public notice. […]
Now, privacy and civil-liberties advocates say the city needs to enact a strong review process to guide how information is collected, stored, shared and protected, rather than leaving the guidelines to various departments. […]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, which questioned the law-enforcement value of both the drones and surveillance cameras, agrees that the city needs to develop policies that narrowly define how technology will be used and who will have access to it. […]
The Seattle Human Rights Commission earlier this year joined with the Privacy Coalition in calling for the city to develop a privacy-impact assessment for all new programs and technologies.
The groups also recommended that the city create a new position of chief privacy officer, who would be responsible for educating city departments on privacy implications and directing the privacy assessments. The groups also want the city to set up an independent privacy advisory board to conduct research and provide oversight to city initiatives. […]
The city’s new chief technology officer, Michael Mattmiller, agrees that the city could do a better job protecting the public’s privacy and getting city departments trained to ensure that the enormous amounts of data the city collects — some of it with personally identifiable information — isn’t breached or misused.