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About this issue

This issue’s theme: The surveillance society

I took a class in college in the 60s called “Totalitarianism and Society” (and the college wasn’t Evergreen). Totalitarianism is a political concept where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to control every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. The professor assured us that no country could achieve this—because none had the capacity to monitor every activity of every citizen.

Well, the electronic revolution and surveillance technology has now made that possible. In this issue, articles discuss the history and nature of surveillance, how it works in our lives, and whether it can be resisted. Plus an example of Google’s “new world order” as it relates to calling for a pizza.

Washington is one of 10 states whose constitutions contain an explicit right to privacy. In our constitution: “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” How much protection this offers depends. In a recent interview two Washington Supreme Court judges seeking reelection gave examples of rulings that could preserve or erode that right: recent cell phone rulings (do police have the right to go through your cell phone); consent (when you use an app it’s implied consent). Use in Seattle and Tacoma of off-budget “stingray” devices that pretend to be a cell phone tower also raises questions.

In one state, Missouri, voters in 2014 approved an amendment that provided explicit constitutional protection from unreasonable searches and seizures for electronic communications or data, such as that found on cell phones and other electronic devices. — BW

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