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Terms of use and privacy policy

View information related to the City of Boston's terms of use and privacy policy below.

TERMS OF USE 

Here’s what you agree to by using a digital City service

A quick summary of major points
  • By using our website or any digital City service, you agree to our Terms of Use and our Privacy Policy. 
  • You agree to not use a digital City service for any unlawful or harmful purposes. If you do, your actions shall be considered a violation of these terms of use, and we may limit your access.
  • The City is subject to the Massachusetts Public Records Law. If you submit any information to us, that information will become public record unless it meets an exemption under the law. Those records will then be subject to disclosure upon request.
  • We are not responsible for user-generated content (any content that was not created by a City employee but may be featured on a digital City service). 
What this covers

The following Terms of Use lay out the purpose and intent of the City’s website and other platforms the City may use to provide digital services. Digital City services include:

  • Boston.gov
  • CityofBoston.gov
  • the 311 website
  • the Analyze Boston Open Data Portal
  • the City’s parking permit system
  • the City’s permit applications system, and
  • any other official City digital products offered online. 

We offer digital City services in order to encourage participation in City government, deliver effective service to the public, and create a better Boston for everyone.

Note: these Terms of Use do not apply to social media sites. See our Social Media Policy for more information. 

Third-party services

The City also contracts with third-parties for certain services, like:

  • web traffic monitoring and website optimization,
  • form submissions and workflow tools,
  • web portals, and
  • financial transactions.

Whenever you use a third-party service, you are also agreeing to that service’s Terms of Use.  If you have any questions about if a digital City service involves a third-party service, please reach out to digital@boston.gov

Appropriate use of services

There are different ways you can access City services online. Some involve just reading through a page on Boston.gov, but others require information being entered into an online form. We have certain rules to follow when interacting with any of these online services (like paying a parking ticket or opening a ticket with 311). 

You may not use digital City services for any of the following purposes:

  • To commit a criminal offense or to encourage others to engage in any conduct that would constitute a criminal offense;
  • To cause any harm that would result in the payment of damages, or encourage others to cause such harm;
  • To impersonate a person or entity, or to claim a relationship with or represent any person or entity you are not authorized to represent;
  • To upload any malicious content that may impact a digital City service, the City’s servers or networks, or the hardware or software of any other person who accesses them; or
  • To upload, post, or otherwise transmit any materials that you do not have the right to transmit (like uploading a video with copyrighted music). 

The City reserves the right to suspend your access to a digital City service if we have reason to believe that your access is being used for any of the prohibited purposes listed above (or for any other inappropriate or unlawful use). If we have a way to contact you, we will do our best to let you know about the suspension. If you believe your account has been suspended unfairly, please contact digital@boston.gov.

If you are creating an account:

In order to access some digital City services, you may be required to create an account. When creating an account, you must ensure that all the information provided by you is current, accurate, and complete, and that you’ll keep the information as updated as possible. You agree that you are at least 18 years old, unless the particular site is intended for children under 18. You agree to never use another’s account without permission. You are solely responsible for the activity that occurs on your account. You agree to keep your account password secure. You must notify us as soon as possible of any breach of security or unauthorized use of your account. 

Digital City services are an additional service provided to constituents as an alternative method for interacting with the City in-person. However, the City can remove digital services, or access to those services, at the City's discretion. If you have outstanding business with the City, you are still required to fulfill those obligations, even if a digital City service is unavailable for any reason.

Indemnity clause

To the fullest extent permitted by law, you acknowledge and agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and assume the defense of the City, its officers, agents or employees, with counsel acceptable to City, which acceptance shall not be unreasonably withheld, from all liabilities, suits, claims, losses, and costs or any other damages against them or any of them arising from any act or omission by you, your agents, officers, employees, or subcontractors in any way connected with your use of our Services, your violation of these Terms, or the infringement, or alleged infringement, by you of any intellectual property or other right of any person or entity.

Disclaimers 

Availability 
Digital City services are subject to forces outside of our control (like the internet), so it’s possible that some services may not be available at certain points. The City is not liable for issues in availability. 

Accuracy
Real people are responsible for updating digital City services, so there are times when information updates may be delayed or inaccurate. The City is not liable for those times. We will always do our best to make sure the information is up to date.

Security
Digital City services may include a secured transaction. Your online security is our top priority, but there’s always a possibility of a breach. We are constantly working to keep every transaction secure, but we are not liable if a breach does happen (though of course we’ll take immediate steps to fix the situation).

External links
While utilizing an online City service, you may see external links that link off to a website not managed by the City (also known as a third-party website). The City is not involved in creating or managing that content of the third-party website and we are not responsible for what happens once you click off of a digital City service page.

User-generated content 

User-generated content featured within a digital City service

Some digital City services may display content that is user-generated. This means the content was created by a member of the public, not someone affiliated with the City. For example, user-generated content could be a 311 ticket submitted by a constituent, or a call to the community to submit artwork that is published on Boston.gov. We do not endorse, support, or share the viewpoint of any user-generated content on a digital City service. 

If you are creating content you know will be posted publicly on a digital City service, you agree not to post anything illegal, obscene, threatening, or fraudulent (you have to be who you say you are). If you don’t follow these rules, we can remove the publicly posted content. Also remember that any information submitted to the City is subject to Massachusetts Public Records Law (learn more in our Privacy Policy).

Keep in mind: if you post content on a digital City service, you are granting the City permission to use your content (for example, we can use a photo sent in using 311 or use the artwork you sent in). If you publicly post content to a digital City service that infringes on a copyright, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act give us the power to take it down. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act dictates how we will notify you of the infringement claim and what you can do if you think your content was taken down by mistake. 

User-generated content created from City information

It’s possible that a third-party could take information from a digital City service and host it on a separate platform (for example, taking the food truck schedule from Boston.gov and displaying it on a separate website). The City is not responsible for information posted by third parties we are not affiliated with, so cannot ensure the information’s accuracy.

If you are using City information on a third-party site, please keep in mind:

  • You and your application must not express or imply any sponsorship or endorsement by the City of Boston.
  • The text and images used in applications produced using City information should not be similar to those used by the City of Boston. They should not imply ownership, endorsement, or approval by the City of Boston. You may not use the City seal in any way.
  • City of Boston services should not be misrepresented. For example, non-city services should not be represented as City of Boston Services.
  • If you are using an API (Application Programming Interface) to source information from a digital City service, we ask that you be mindful of excessive usage (which could slow down service for others). Though there is currently no usage limit, we ask that you let us know if you plan to make heavy use of an API featured on a digital City service (just email digital@boston.gov)

Changes to this policy

Our Terms of Use are likely to be updated. Every time you visit an online City service, it’s considered a new transaction, so it’s important to check back to make sure you’re comfortable with the terms. The date that this policy was last modified can be found at the top of this page. Any modifications are effective immediately.  This document should be considered the most updated policy and will be considered above any other agreements. 


PRIVACY POLICY 

Here’s how the City will use the information you provide

A quick summary of major points
  • By using our website or any digital City service, you agree to our Terms of Use and our Privacy Policy. 
  • Whenever a user visits a digital City service, be aware that some information is automatically collected. None of the information automatically collected is personally identifiable (it wouldn’t identify you as an individual). 
  • Some digital City services (like the creation of a user account) will require you to provide additional information. 
  • The City is subject to the Massachusetts Public Records Law. If you submit any information to us, that information becomes public record and is subject to disclosure upon request unless it meets a statutory exemption.
What this covers

The City of Boston is committed to providing users with convenient and secure digital government services while protecting digital privacy. This Privacy Policy describes how we collect and treat information when you visit Boston.gov or use any digital City service. Every time you use a digital City service, you are consenting to this privacy policy. 

Third-party services

The City contracts with third-parties for certain services, like:

  • web traffic monitoring and website optimization,
  • form submissions and workflow tools,
  • web portals, and
  • financial transactions.

Whenever you use you a third-party service, you are also agreeing to that service’s Privacy Policy.  If you have any questions about if a digital City service involves a third-party service, please reach out to digital@boston.gov.

Information we automatically collect and receive

Some information is automatically collected when you visit Boston.gov or any digital City service. As with many websites, we use server logs, cookies, metadata, and geocodes. The information automatically collected may include, but is not limited to: 

  • the domain name of your Internet Service Provider and/or your computer 
  • the IP address from which you access our website
  • your browser type (e.g., Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Mozilla Firefox)
  • your operating system (e.g., Windows or Mac)
  • the type of device you are using
  • the date and time you accessed our Services
  • location data
  • the pages you visited, as well as any applications or forms used, and 
  • the Uniform Resource Locator (“URL”) of the webpage that linked you to our Services. 

We do not collect this information to provide targeted advertising. We collect this information in order to help us better analyze and improve our digital City services. This information allows us to learn how many visitors we have, where they are coming from, and which of our services are of most interest to users. We analyze traffic to our services in various ways, including using third-party services listed below. We reserve the right to change analytic service providers at any time, with or without notice. 

Unless you affirmatively provide additional information to us (for instance, as part of an account creation process described below), we do not collect or store personally identifiable information. 

Information you affirmatively provide to us

While some information is automatically collected when you visit a digital City service, there are also times you may provide us with additional information. These could include:

User submissions
Some of our digital City services allow users to submit suggestions, comments, or requests to us. This could be by emailing us, filling out an online form, or reporting a problem via 311. This data may include personally identifiable information such as a name and email address. If you send us a message via email or through an online form, we will use that information to respond to the request. We may also direct your message to another government agency that can help in fulfilling your request.

User accounts
Users do not have to register for accounts to browse or read the City website. However, some of our digital City services involve the creation of a user account. Creating an account may involve the submission of personally identifiable information. This could include a display name, password, e-mail address, full name, mailing address, telephone number, etc. 

We do not use any of this information to send commercial or marketing messages. We may use this information to notify you of major changes to digital City services or provide you with customer service.

Some of our user account systems can be linked with third-party websites, such as social media networks. To link your accounts, you must provide us with your display name or user ID on those third-party websites. You may also be required to engage in an authorization process with each of those websites. During the process, we will receive a token or account identifier that allows us to link your account on our system with your account on that particular website. We do not receive or store your passwords from those websites.

Secure transactions
The City takes security very seriously. We make every reasonable effort to protect information provided to us or our third party service providers. We have adopted an HTTPS-only policy to protect visitors to our digital City services. (Some exceptions may apply for legacy websites and digital City services hosted on CityofBoston.gov.) If you’re making an online payment through a digital City service, it’s always good to make sure the website address starts with “https”.

Email and text messages
There are multiple ways you can sign up to receive information from the City or a specific department or program. Usually, these messages will be sent through email or text messages. 

These email communications may include web beacons. Web beacons allow us to collect information such as: 

  • the time and date the email is opened
  • the IP address of the recipient, and 
  • the recipient’s browser or email client. 

We use this information to make our communications better. 

You can unsubscribe from these email or text notifications at any time. Just following the instructions included at the bottom of each email or in the text. We generate email alerts using a number of different systems. If you are subscribed to multiple email threads, you may need to unsubscribe from each one individually. Although you may be unsubscribed from alerts, your email address or phone number may still remain in our system. If you have any questions about these alerts, or if you would like to ensure your information is removed from the system, please contact digital@boston.gov.

What happens after you provide personal information

Our only intention in collecting information is to provide users with smooth and efficient digital City service experiences. However, because we are a government agency, there are a few important things to note.

Information storage
We are required by law to retain records for a certain amount of time, as laid out in our records retention schedule. Retention timelines can vary depending on what kind of information you provide (for example, general correspondence like an email must be held for three years).

Sharing information
We may share information or statistics with third parties or the public in an anonymous form that does not directly identify you. This would typically be done to assess a digital City service (like using information in our Open Data Portal to assess the efficiency of bus routes) – no personally identifiable information would be  released. 

Additionally, if a user is having issues with a digital City service, we may share information with outside parties to the extent necessary to troubleshoot the issues or enhance the performance of the system. 

Public records
As a government agency, any information we have in our system is subject to Massachusetts Public Records Law.  This means the information you provide to us may be available to members of the public upon request unless there’s an exemption (a reason not to provide it) under Massachusetts law. 

Subpoenas
It’s possible that the City may receive a subpoena, or other lawful order, that legally requires information to be turned over to the court system. A subpoena could include personal information entered into a digital City service. 

Data security
We have implemented data security measures to protect the loss, misuse, or alteration of the information under our control. We also maintain ongoing efforts to identify and block unauthorized use of our servers. However, no website or data storage system is completely secure. To the extent permitted by law, the City is not responsible for any harm that comes as a result of a breach in a digital City service. 

Children’s information
Our digital City services are intended for use by adults. We do not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13 years of age. However, we also do not try to determine whether a visitor is underage. If you are a parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 13 who you believe has submitted personal information by use of our Services, please contact us immediately at digital@boston.gov.

Changes to this policy

We reserve the right to change the terms of this policy at any time. We encourage you to review this page periodically to stay informed of any updates. The date that this policy was last modified can be found at the top of this page. Any modifications are effective immediately. Your continued use of our digital City services signifies your consent to any changes to this policy. 

Still have questions? Contact:
Innovation and Technology
1 City Hall Square
Room 703
Boston MA  02201-2021
United States