The City of New York is stepping up to protect your digital privacy
Through new legislation, strategic initiatives, and public events like Library Privacy Week, the City of New York is working to keep New Yorkers safe and secure as they access the internet.
Why am I seeing ads for that dress that I was looking at last week?
I heard that a credit reporting agency had a major data breach, what does this mean for me?
When I search for medications, who knows what information I am entering? Where does that information go?
We hear (and likely express) these types of questions often. Privacy and online data regularly dominate headlines, and have become some of the most important and complex political issues of our time. From Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica Scandal to the Equifax Breach to the federal government’s repeal of internet privacy rules last year, the companies and government organizations that we interact with daily are raising more questions and not providing answers. More importantly, it’s unclear where we should turn when we have concerns about protecting our personal information.
To address this, the City of New York is executing a multifaceted strategy to protect New Yorkers’ personal information and provide key resources for addressing these issues. For example, the New York City Cyber Command, led by the City’s Chief Information Security Officer, partners with the City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to, among other functions, set citywide policy and standards for cybersecurity. Also, the City Council recently enacted two new laws, known together as the Identifying Information Law, to protect the privacy of New Yorkers’ personal information — and this past spring, the Mayor appointed the City’s first Chief Privacy Officer to implement those laws and lead a new Mayor’s Office of Information Privacy.
We are also launching the city’s first-ever Library Privacy Week, a weeklong series of events that will help New Yorkers access tools and resources to protect their privacy when using the internet.
Over the past year, our office joined forces with one of our most trusted public institutions — the public library — to create a space and opportunity for New Yorkers to ask questions and receive the information they need to protect their privacy. Through the NYC Safety: Privacy & Security project, the City of New York provided funding to ensure that more than 1,000 library staff, at least one at every branch throughout New York City, received specialized training in online privacy and digital security. Today we are pleased to announce that we are providing additional funding for the NYC Safety: Privacy & Security program, to expand privacy trainings to even more library staff and ensure that the materials stay fresh and up to date as new threats to digital privacy arise. Library Privacy Week is a celebration of this important milestone.
Libraries — Trusted Partners for All New Yorkers
There’s a reason we are partnering with our public libraries to protect New Yorkers’ digital privacy. While the technologies may have changed, privacy is not a new topic for libraries. In 1939, the American Library Association affirmed a right to privacy, noting that confidentiality is critical to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. Library staff have a long-standing commitment to an ethic of facilitating, not monitoring, access to information. There is a library in every neighborhood throughout all of New York City, and they are free and available for anyone to visit. NYC libraries receive over 40 million visitors each year, and are an ideal venue to connect New Yorkers with tools and resources to safeguard their privacy in the digital age.
Over the past year and a half, the Metropolitan New York Library Council convened an Advisory Council comprised of Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Public Library, New York Public Library, Mozilla Foundation, and The New School to develop a best-in-class digital curriculum and an in-person workshop facilitation guide specifically designed for the needs of library staff. We are pleased to share that with the formal launch of NYC Safety: Privacy & Security these materials will be freely available to the world under a Creative Commons license, and we are celebrating this accomplishment with the City’s first-ever Library Privacy Week from October 15th to October 22nd.
Library Privacy Week is a weeklong series of more than 30 free, public events throughout all five boroughs that will help New Yorkers gain important skills and knowledge about how to protect digital privacy. We hope you will join us and share widely. Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening, and for a complete list of events please visit libraryprivacyweek.nyc.
o The Bronx (October 15) How to Secure Your Privacy While Using the Internet is a free public workshop hosted by the New York Public Library will cover best practices of keeping your information safe online and your computer virus free.
o Manhattan (October 16) Safety First! Privacy, security and your data is a free workshop hosted by the METRO library council that will explore new ways of helping learners better understand how our data is being (mis)-used online, and what we can do to protect it
o Queens (October 17) Anti-Social: Exporting Your Google and Facebook Data is a free workshop to help you find out what information large technology companies collect about you and how to use built-in privacy tools to opt out of certain types of data collection.
o Staten Island (October 19) Social Media & Your Privacy is a free workshop designed to help learners navigate privacy controls and other measures on sites like Facebook and Twitter
o Brooklyn (October 22) NYC Digital Safety: Artists Panel is a free event that will preview a distributed art exhibition that will interrogate and explore issues of digital risk and privacy.
On the final day of Library Privacy Week, there will be a special preview of Privacy in Public: NYC Digital Safety Exhibition. This public art exhibition, coordinated by the METRO Library Council and The New School, will run from November 15 through January 15, and will elevate a conversation about digital privacy in New York City’s communities directly through their local branch libraries. Nine library branches — three from each of the city’s library systems — will host a distributed exhibition of site-specific artworks exploring issues related to digital risk and privacy. The selected artists will highlight the concerns of communities who are often marginalized in technology development and disproportionately at risk of harm from predatory or surveillant systems.
New York City — A national leader on digital privacy and security
NYC Safety: Privacy & Security and Library Privacy Week are just two of many City-led efforts to protect New Yorkers digital privacy and security. Last month, Council Member Koo, Chair of the Tech Committee, introduced at the Mayor’s request 1101–2018, a local law that would require cable broadband providers in NYC to provide notice and obtain consent before they collect, disclose, and use personal information from customers, among other additional consumer protection measures. This bill would cover an estimated 1.8 million New York City households that get their internet service from our local cable providers. If you are interested in supporting this bill, make sure to reach out to your local city council member.
The City’s Identifying Information Law, together with the Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) role and Mayor’s Office of Information Privacy (MOIP), position New York City as a national leader in information privacy protection. The CPO and MoIP are working across more than 130 City agencies and offices to promote responsible data-sharing and privacy best practices. For more information on MoIP and the CPO, visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/moip/index.page.
Additionally, the New York City Cyber Command (NYC3) released the NYC Secure App, a free New York City-funded mobile app that will alert you if your mobile device or tablet encounters threats such as a potentially unsecure Wi-Fi network or system tampering. The developers of the NYCSecure App utilized privacy by design, meaning that you will not need to provide any information about yourself to download the app and you can be certain that nothing about you or your activity ever leaves the device.
We’re not stopping there…
As digital threats continue to increase, the City of New York is continuously examining how we can keep New Yorkers and their information safe. The policies, initiatives and events outlined above are first steps toward achieving this goal, but we are not stopping there. And from the regulatory side, we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure New Yorkers have control of their information. We are committed to protecting your privacy, and keeping New York City the safest City in America — online and off.
If you have any other ideas for how the City can protect your digital privacy, we want to hear them! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.