Faiza Patel is a senior director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. Before sitting down on a panel for the Zócalo event “What Is the State of Surveillance?”—presented in partnership with ACLU of Southern California and The Progress Network—she sat down in our green room to talk painful reads, Urdu, and spying on her husband.
Do you take steps to protect your online privacy?
I use DuckDuckGo for my browser. I use ad blockers. Every time a question pops up about whether I want to change my privacy settings, I go in there, and click them all off so they can’t track me online as much as possible. For sensitive conversations, I use Signal. Those kinds of basic things for digital hygiene. Occasionally, when I’m traveling, I’ll use a VPN for security.
What is one of your favorite places to go in New York City?
Hudson River Park. I live downtown, and it’s just two blocks from my apartment. [The park] has all these beautiful green spaces, which we’re short of in New York City. It’s really glorious, especially in the summer.
What was your last great read?
I really loved A Little Life [by Hanya Yanagihara]. I actually read it twice. Even though it was an extraordinarily painful book, I thought there was so much in it. I also liked her other book, To Paradise, which is a sort of dystopian time-bending novel. It’s a little less painful than A Little Life.
What’s a food you crave that you can’t cook?
You’re a security guard in a panopticon-style luxury apartment complex. What three people are you spying on?
Definitely my husband. The tech CEO who has an apartment there, and the high-level politician.
What’s an Urdu word you like?
Ishq. It means love, but a romantic form of love. It’s not like the love you have for your child. You can use it for a husband, spouse, or romantic partner. But it’s also sometimes used in a more mystical form.
What is something you wish you knew when you were younger?
I went to college straight from Pakistan. Academically it was fine, socially it was fine, but I don’t think I was prepared to take advantage of the many opportunities presented by an American university. I certainly didn’t understand the importance of developing mentoring relationships with people.
What do you find beautiful about the world?