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Future Building

A Surveillance Free Public

In another angle of how government should work differently than businesses, here’s one that should have occurred to me: government websites should be surveillance free.

I removed analytics from my personal blog a little over a year ago. But it didn’t occur to me that I could do anything about the local government where I work.

As a public servant, I need to try to push my city to think about what is best for our residents. The City is redoing its website right now and I’d bet we’re continuing to use Google Analytics on the new platform. I can plant a seed of thought at the least.

Does the value staff and Council get in knowing how many people visit a page or which pages see the most traffic outweigh the cost to our residents in providing that data to Google? I’d argue no. Analytics do help staff improve the usability of our website but probably not enough to justify the cost of being surveilled on a government website.

Would many people in my tech-sector town (which houses a Google office) bat an eye that their data were being collected on the city website? Probably not, but that doesn’t give us a pass. And those who don’t want to share their data shouldn’t have limited access to government services. We have an opportunity to do better by our residents, to be leaders in protecting our residents’ privacy.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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