Cities today collect and store a wide range of data that may contain sensitive or identifiable information about residents. As cities embrace open data initiatives, more of this information is available to the public. While releasing data has many important benefits, sharing data comes with inherent risks to individual privacy: released data can reveal information about individuals that would otherwise not be public knowledge. In recent years, open data such as taxi trips, voter registration files, and police records have revealed information that many believe should not be released.
Effective data governance is a prerequisite for successful open data programs. The goal of this document is to codify responsible privacy-protective approaches and processes that could be adopted by cities and other government organizations that are publicly releasing data. Our report is organized around four recommendations:
Conduct risk-benefit analyses to inform the design and implementation of open data programs.
Consider privacy at each stage of the data lifecycle: collect, maintain, release, delete.
Develop operational structures and processes that codify privacy management widely throughout the City.
Emphasize public engagement and public priorities as essential aspects of data management programs.
Each chapter of this report is dedicated to one of these four recommendations, and provides fundamental context along with specific suggestions to carry them out. In particular, we provide case studies of best practices from numerous cities and a set of forms and tactics for cities to implement our recommendations. The Appendix synthesizes key elements of the report into an Open Data Privacy Toolkit that cities can use to manage privacy when releasing data.
Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University 2017