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ACLU of Southern California and The Progress Network, and Zócalo
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What Is the State of Surveillance?


Early this year, an uncrewed Chinese-operated high-altitude balloon floated across U.S. airspace, stoking anxiety and fascination among Americans, who assumed it was spying on them, and ultimately provoking President Biden to order the Pentagon to shoot it down. Just as alarming as foreign espionage, though, is the fear of information-gathering turned inward. American anxieties around the “surveillance state” have only grown since the Watergate scandal; with the post-9/11 passage of the USA PATRIOT Act; and with revelations that federal agencies sift through ordinary Americans’ phone and email communications, financial information, and Internet usage. Add in the rise of artificial intelligence, and our addictions to smartphones and sharing personal data, and pressing questions arise: Is Big Brother watching, and do we like it? What is the role of surveillance in our democracy, and to what ends do government and business use it? Does being watched keep us safe, or are we being snookered into becoming our own unwitting informants? What standards for digital privacy do we even want?

Zócalo, ACLU of Southern California, and The Progress Network welcome ArtCenter College of Design art and tech scholar Mashinka Firunts Hakopian, Brennan Center government surveillance expert Faiza Patel, and ACLU SoCal attorney Mohammad Tajsar—experts working in and thinking deeply about surveillance and what it means for our 21st-century public and private lives—for a timely discussion moderated by UCLA’s Ramesh Srinavasan.

Zócalo invites the in-person audience to continue the conversation with our speakers and each other at a post-event reception with complimentary small bites and drinks.


Photo: SOMEONE: AMANDA. Lauren Lee McCarthy, 2019.