About the Surveillance Ordinance

About the Ordinance

The City of Seattle Surveillance Ordinance 125376 took effect on September 1, 2017 and is designed to provide greater transparency to City Council and the public when the City acquires technology that meets the City's definition of surveillance.

What is Surveillance?

Surveillance is defined as technologies that "observe or analyze the movements, behavior, or actions of identifiable individuals in a manner that is reasonably likely to raise concerns about civil liberties, freedom of speech or association, racial equity or social justice." Certain technologies, such as police body cameras and technologies for everyday office use, are excluded from the law.

Ordinance Requirements

The Surveillance Ordinance requires that:

  1. City departments review all existing technologies and provide Council a Master List by November 2017 of those currently in use to be reviewed in 2018-2019.
  2. Council review and vote about the acquisition and deployment of all new and currently-used surveillance technologies.
  3. Regular, detailed reports on surveillance technology use, community equity impact, and non-surveillance technology acquisitions.
  4. Each new technology that meets the criteria for surveillance, a City department must prepare a Surveillance Impact Report ("SIR"). These reports include an in-depth review of privacy implications, especially relating to equity and community impact.
  5. At least one community meeting with comments collected from that meeting submitted to Council via the SIR. Council may require departments to conduct additional community engagement on the technology.

SIR Review Stages

There are several stages in the surveillance technology review process. The stages are sequential and are as follows:

  1. Upcoming for review: This stage denotes that the technology is upcoming for review, but the department has not begun drafting the Surveillance Impact Report (SIR).
  2. Initial draft: Work on the initial draft of the SIR is currently underway.
  3. Open comment period: The initial draft of the SIR and supporting materials have been released for public review and comment. During this time, one or more public meetings will take place to solicit feedback.
  4. Final draft: During this stage the SIR, including collection of all public comments related to the specific technology, is being compiled and finalized.
  5. Working Group: The Surveillance Advisory Working Group will review each SIR final draft and complete a Civil Liberties and Privacy Assessment, which will then be included with the SIR and submitted to Council.
  6. Under review by council: The technology is currently under review by City Council during this stage.
  7. Council decision: City Council has made a determination on the use of the surveillance technology.