Los Angeles In-Person | Streaming Online

What Is the State of Surveillance?

What Is the State of Surveillance? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

SOMEONE: AMANDA. Lauren Lee McCarthy, 2019.

Presented in partnership with ACLU of Southern California and The Progress Network
Moderated by Ramesh Srinivasan, Tech and Society Scholar at UCLA and Director, UC Digital Cultures Lab

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 Srinivasan.


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

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The Takeaway

Big Brother Is Watching. But We Can Resist

At Last Night’s “What Is the State of Surveillance?” Program, Panelists Spoke About What We Can Do About the Orwellian Present

“Can surveillance be a necessary evil?” The question came near the end of yesterday’s public program, “What Is the State of Surveillance?,” held at the ASU California Center in the …