The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) released best practices for the access and management of mobility data, an increasingly-complex policy area with the potential to remake how city streets are managed.
As mobility service providers operating in the public realm (including Uber, Lyft, Bird, Lime, Waze, and other private mobility providers) capture increasing amounts of data, ensuring that data is appropriately collected and protected by cities and companies alike is an increasingly urgent concern. This data provides essential information that is at the heart of sound policymaking. At the same time, both cities and private companies must take steps to safeguard data and ensure that individual privacy — a foundation of democratic society — is protected.
NACTO and IMLA’s new policy guidance, Managing Mobility Data, provides a common framework for sharing, protecting, and managing data based on four principles:
- Data is a Public Good: Cities require data from private vendors operating on city streets to ensure positive safety, equity, and mobility outcomes on streets and places in the public right-of-way.
- Data Should be Protected: Cities and private companies should treat geospatial mobility data as they treat personally identifiable information (PII).
- Data Should be Collected Purposefully: Cities should be clear about when, why, and what data is necessary for planning, analysis, oversight, and enforcement purposes.
- Data Should be Portable: Open data standards help cities and private companies to share data in universal formats, enabling cities to use data from multiple sources, and supporting innovation in both the public and private sectors.
Managing Mobility Data provides guidance on how to ensure individual privacy as data collection becomes easier and more widespread. Mobility data, even when “anonymized,” can be easily traced back to individual users if precautions are not taken to appropriately manage and aggregate data.
As recent data breaches and unintentional de-anonymization of data sets have shown, mobility data can be easily personally identifiable, and individual privacy is hard to maintain without robust frameworks in place to ensure data is appropriately stored, accessed, aggregated, and protected. Cities can take a number of common-sense approaches to reduce the risk of data being inappropriately accessed, used, or shared.
While written by and for cities, NACTO and IMLA’s guidance is built on principles that should be adopted by both the public and private sectors.
“Cities must understand and manage the public realm to meet ambitious climate, safety, and equity goals,” said Seleta Reynolds, NACTO President and General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “In Los Angeles, we know data can inform better planning decisions and regulate private mobility services for public benefit."
“With the rise in new transportation options facilitated by online and app-based services, data security and management is imperative,” said Chuck Thompson, General Counsel and Executive Director of the International Municipal Lawyers Association. “Leveraging this data, using the principles outlined in NACTO and IMLA’s joint guidance, will allow cities to upgrade and streamline existing infrastructure and plan for future advancements in this area.”
“The privacy issues posed by geolocation information cannot be underestimated, and NACTO and IMLA’s policy guidance is timely and essential as cities and companies gather more and more data about how individuals go about their days,” said Joseph Jerome, Policy Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology.
With thoughtful tools and principles, and by maintaining regulatory authority, cities can ensure positive outcomes with the collection and management of mobility data. Managing Mobility Data charts a path that increases public agencies’ access to data and information while strengthening privacy protections for individuals.