UW Privacy Office

About Us

UW Privacy Program

As we pursue our academic, research, healthcare, and business activities, it is vital that we each understand our humanitarian, ethical, and legal obligations when it comes to individuals’ privacy. Without individuals trusting us with their information, it would be impossible for us to fulfill our mission. We owe it to those we serve to ensure that their information is handled securely and appropriately.

Vision

Our vision is to have a culture of privacy that promotes trusted relationships, respects academic freedom, and supports the responsible use of information to further UW’s vision and mission.

Mission

We develop universal privacy policies and principles that uphold the UW’s values. We provide support services that help align the UW’s overall approach to protecting privacy and create an institution-wide structure and strategy that unifies privacy at all UW locations.

Scope

The UW Privacy Office represents the privacy interest of the Office of the President and Provost across the University. The efforts of the UW Privacy Office apply to all areas of the University; all workforce members; and all mediums of information under the possession, custody, or control of the UW.  

Inclusive and Collaborative Approach

Historically, privacy has been approached in silos or defined by a topic specific law or regulation. Today, privacy is defined and perceived differently by each person, generation, and geographic area. Our boundless efforts in teaching, research, and service compel us to think about how our interactions and use of the following data elements impact individuals’ privacy:

  • Geography – addresses, surveillance, personal locations or space, geo-spatial data, etc.
  • Identity – biometrics, financial accounts, social security numbers, etc.
  • Health – protected health information, genetics, health accommodations, physiology, etc.
  • Behavior or Actions – political views, religious beliefs, interests, affiliations, status, etc.
  • Technology – Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, online identifiers, unmanned aerial systems or drones, etc.
  • Demography – economic, social, cultural, citizenship, ethnicity, ancestry, etc.
  • Communications – voice, electronic, print, etc.
  • Images – photos, videos, scans, etc.

The UW Privacy Office uses an inclusive and collaborative approach that helps the UW: balance privacy risk; assess how the above elements may relate to an individual’s privacy; and align data elements with subject areas and compliance areas that have already been defined and are in use by other offices and groups at UW.

The diagram below cross references the UW areas of data with compliance areas. This enables the UW Privacy Office to categorize and communicate risk and ideas in a taxonomy that’s already defined and used by other UW units and governance structures.

UW governance related to privacy

When benefits and risks don’t align, the UW Privacy Office will leverage governance structures and processes in collaborative ways to provide thought leadership on how the nomenclature should evolve so that we don’t cause conflict, confusion, or additional layers of bureaucracy for the UW community.

This is an approach that’s known to work at UW, thus it will allow the UW Privacy Office to initiate its strategy and efforts in an expeditious manner. As the privacy program matures we’ll modify the approach to meet the evolving needs of the UW.