Digital Rights Platform
(The DTPR Icons Design Guide and Taxonomy are licensed by the Digital Transparency in the Public Realm contributors under Creative Common Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).)
Blog post compiled by Shannon Lin and Asher Lipman, Civic Innovation Corps Fellows
Hi! We’re Shannon Lin & Asher Lipman, two Summer Fellows for the City of Long Beach Smart City Initiative team here through the Coding it Forward Civic Innovation Corps Fellowship under Smart City Program Manager Ryan Kurtzman’s supervision.
Read our December 2022 blog post regarding our recent Long Beach Data Walks to learn more about the Digital Rights Platform!
What did we work on?
We developed the first version of a Digital Rights Platform that aims to inform the public of the city’s technology deployment and data collection practices/usage. This was motivated by community outreach done by the City and its partners in 2020/2021 that revealed the public’s overall concerns, unawareness, and uncertainty of the City’s usage of various technology (tech) and data systems. Additionally, there isn’t an easily accessible channel for residents to view this information and share their feedback with the City.
We built this prototype of the Digital Rights Platform with Digital Transparency in the Public Realm (DTPR) open-source assets that are available on Github and managed by Helpful Places. The Helpful Places team also provided us with design and development advice along the way.
Note that Long Beach does have a publicly accessible dataset on its Open Data Portal that provides some information about public data collection in accordance with the Senate Bill 272. However, the scope is very limited with technical terminology used and the platform is not communicated well as an available resource. The Digital Rights Platform seeks to expand the breadth and depth, improve the usability and accessibility, and overall provide better support and outreach as an ongoing resource.
What did we accomplish?
Our 10-week efforts resulted in both an external-facing online and offline component. This online platform is a very early-stage development that we invite you to give feedback on through a Microsoft Form linked directly on the platform itself. We also deployed various digital rights notice signs around the city that link to the online platform.
Our development process
During this 10-week period, we followed an agile development framework to help create an overall vision within our five 2-week sprints to stay on track and iterate quickly. This included analyzing foundational research performed by the city and its partners in 2020 and 2021, performing community outreach through surveys (offered in Long Beach’s 4 primary languages of English, Khmer, Tagalog, and Spanish) and live chats with various community members, and developing both our online platform and offline signs. We received 100+ survey responses from a diverse sample size, chatted with ~10 community members to learn more about their feeling/experiences with public-facing City tech/data, and received feedback from our platform from ~20 community members to help direct future development to create a platform that the community wants and can easily use. We compensated community members for their time and input with gift cards and prize drawings.
To improve our community outreach, we leaned on various partners to help promote our outreach survey designed to get an understanding of the public’s concerns, our interest form for live feedback interviews to improve our platform, and overall to connect with more community members through already trusted organizations/sources. These organizations included the Long Beach Library, Centro CHA, Long Beach Forward, Long Beach Gray Panthers, United Cambodian Community, YMCA of Long Beach, Filipino Migrant Center, Long Beach Rotary Club, Days LB, CSULB Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Khmer Girls in Action. We worked more closely with some of these organizations than others and are looking to further our relationship with them to continue improving the city and creating more inclusive, accessible, and effective programs/platforms.
What did we learn from the Long Beach community?
Community outreach survey
First, we’d like to share the demographics of the survey respondents: mostly those who live in Long Beach, youth, non-white, and low-income. This contrasts the usual demographics of respondents, and we hope to continue improving our outreach to non-English first language members and expanding overall reach to create a more inclusive development process and platform. Below, we share some summary visuals and takeaways.
Above you see two highlights from our various quantitative questions. Respondents overall want all types of control over the City’s public-facing tech/data with the top one as ability to view their data. The digital rights platform hopes to help give insights into that but is by no means the only solution nor the final version. Of the responses, most learn about the city’s usage of tech/data through online platforms. This of course is skewed due to the younger nature of the respondents but further validates our two-sided online and offline components of our digital rights platform.
Qualitative free-response questions also gave us helpful insights. Overall, people feel unsafe, worried, cautious, and/or uncomfortable when they think about the City’s public-facing tech/data usage with most believing that the city’s practices are a strong violation of their privacy. At the same time, almost the same number of folks believe that the City uses the tech/data to improve everyday life. Most believe that the City collects personal information (like home address, income, demographic information, criminal record, etc.) and that they are most uncomfortable with cameras, whether they are used excessively/reactively in a non-consensual manner, by the police department, or involves facial recognition. Here’s a few highlighted (paraphrased) quotes:
I think the City collects data on "living situations, what could be better, how we live, and more. I think if the intention is to make our city better, it is okay."
"I think about how the city tracks what people use and what they do just to make sure they're staying safe and not doing illegal things, which I appreciate. However I am concerned on the data that is tracked, some of which people might not want to be known to the public or at all."
“I've never shared feedback with the city because I didn't know this was an option”
“I'm not sure how to share my feedback in a way that will be useful for the City. I worry my feedback will be interpreted as ‘complaining’ and then ignored.”
"I and many of my neighbors are most uncomfortable with data collection by untrusted organizations like the Police and Development Services. The data isn’t usefully available to the community and not serving the majority of the residents."
These takeaways validate the need to provide specific insights into what public-facing tech/data the City uses, a channel for the community to share their feedback to the city who then needs to take the public’s concerns into their decision-making process, and overall improve the city’s transparency and inclusion practices.
Overall, folks want access to a wide range of information about the City’s public-facing tech/data usage, particularly about ones they are generally uncomfortable with. When thinking about traits that make them uncomfortable, wrongful usage or access to certain datasets come to mind. Among the interviewed community members about what they wish they had information to, data content was the top cited want: what’s in the data, purpose of data collection, what technologies are used, who is responsible for the data, who has access to the data, etc.
Platform testing feedback chats
Based on research conducted in 2020/21 and newer 2022 research through the survey and interviews mentioned above, we built the first version of the online platform. Building something the community wants is one of our top priorities, so we continued to reach out to various organizations to help us promote the platform and chat with various community members to hear their feedback directly. Here are some (paraphrased) quotes that we heard during our platform feedback chat:
“WOW, this is crazy. The government’s going to tell us what they use?”
“Clean site. Info is great!”
"This site tells too much and too little at the same time. I’m left with a lot of questions."
“What does digital rights mean?”
"I’d rather be informed but now I’m uncomfortable with these technologies & data collection systems."
"I wonder if we can have a ‘risk’ section that more clearly details what this means for the public."
These feedback chats continued to validate the need for a platform like this, and clearly continued work is needed to expand the breadth/depth of information presented, increase usability/accessibility of the site, and overall deliver a solution that works for the community and city.
One of our top priorities is translating the full site into Khmer, Tagalog, and Spanish. Additionally, the first round of feedback chats gave us great insights into actionable next steps:
- Better define digital rights platform and promote it as an available resource.
- Display more information about the technologies used & data collection on each system description to increase transparency. Also, include more systems beyond the 2 currently seen.
- Continue partnering with various organizations throughout the city