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Privacy and the "Nothing To Hide" Argument 728

Posted by kdawson
from the framing-the-debate dept.
privacyprof writes "One of the most common responses of those unconcerned about government surveillance or privacy invasions is 'I've got nothing to hide.' According to the 'nothing to hide' argument, there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private. The 'nothing to hide' argument is quite prevalent. Is there a way to respond to this argument that would really register with people in the general public? In a short essay, 'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy, Professor Daniel Solove takes on the 'nothing to hide' argument and exposes its faulty underpinnings." At the base of the fallacy, as Bruce Schneier has noted, is the "faulty premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong."
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Privacy and the "Nothing To Hide" Argument

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  • by thesolo (131008) * <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:10PM (#19818191) Homepage
    Wired has already answered [wired.com] this question extremely well.

    A few examples (first three are a bit tongue-in-cheek):
    • If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.
    • Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition.
    • Because you might do something wrong with my information.
    • Who watches the watchers?
    • Absolute power corrupts absolutely.


    Or, perhaps a bit more plainly, "Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.".
    • by Normal Dan (1053064) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:17PM (#19818281)

      Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition.
      I think this is a very good argument. You might not have something to hide now, but in the future you might. The government changes and one day you might not like the change. By then it may be too late. Suppose they raise taxes to 90%. What can you do? Protest? Suppose they declare protesting to be a terrorist act? You might argue they cannot do that due to the constitution, but terrorists are not protected by the constitution. Etc.
      • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:29PM (#19818463) Journal
        Also, if they spot you doing something today which is not illegal and then make it illegal. They can't (in theory) prosecute you for it, but they could, say;
        • arrest you because you have a history of doing it and they can now probably pin it on you
        • get some big men in dark suits to accost you in the street and remind you that what you did on the 22nd March last year is now illegal
        • Flag you for extra surveillance involving 24 hour watching on CCTV and a camera strategically positioned in your bathroom
        • Put around the story that you did it before it was illegal and sociopathic perverts like you can't help themselves from doing it again now that it is illegal

        Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to catch up on Big Brother
        • by yankeessuck (644423) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:04PM (#19819573)
          See McCarthyism for an concrete example of prosecution/persecution after the fact. The next witchhunt is always potentially around the corner and one can never be sure what it'll be about.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:50PM (#19819431) Homepage Journal
        I think it's pretty hard to disagree with both these arguments, but it begs another question:

        Who among us thinks the government should be able to secretly spy on us without either permission or reporting to a court? As we've learned in the last few days, as far as the government is concerned, there is no record of secret wiretaps because, hey, they're secret. So the subject of the surveillance is never allowed to see whether or not they have been watched/recorded/wiretapped (this is exactly the argument made by the Bush Administration in Federal Court).

        There's this bit in the Constitution about anybody who is accused having the right to face their accuser and the evidence against them in open court. Who among us does not believe this is a good thing? And if the government says that the citizen that was wiretapped is a terrorist, but doesn't have to show any evidence that the target is a terrorist, even to a secret court, is there any way secret wiretapping or surveillance can ever be Constitutional? Is it even important to pay attention to the Constitution any more in an age of a "terrorist threat"?

        There are those here who proclaim support of the Bush Administration's secret wiretapping program, so I'd like to hear their answers to these questions. Since the users of Slashdot are mainly people who work very specifically with the technology that is used and is affected by these issues, it's important for us to have this discussion. Many of us will, in the coming years, directly deal with this issue from one side or the other.
    • whatever (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:20PM (#19818335)
      All attractive people *should* be legally required to stay naked on warm days because they have nothing to hide.

    • by Jack9 (11421) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:22PM (#19818347)
      Privacy protects us from being abused by not just government, but other people (and organizations).

      How many Senators have available social security numbers, cell phone numbers, daily date planners, daughter's after school program schedules, etc. It's not just about government, when there's so many more people likely to take advantage of private information.
    • by Blue Stone (582566) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:26PM (#19818411) Homepage Journal
      The one I like: "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." - Cardinal Richelieu
    • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:29PM (#19818457) Journal
      Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition.

      I'm in the minority because I like the Bush administration, but I do have to say that Ashcroft pissed me off when they imprisoned Tommy Chong. For the longest time anyone could buy drug paraphernalia in head shops. There was no law against it. Then suddenly Tommy Chong gets arrested ex post facto. They changed the interpretation of anti-drug laws on the fly so they imprisoned a man who did nothing illegal, and had no chance to stop doing it once they declared it illegal. If I lived in California, I woulda been out every day of his imprisonment holding up a protest sign. I'm sure a lot of people would have been there too, but then the government would have just cracked down on them hard because they'd assume they were drug users. The people knew this and never showed up for a rally.
      • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:55PM (#19818783)
        > I'm in the minority because I like the Bush administration, but I do have to say that Ashcroft pissed me off when they imprisoned Tommy Chong. For the longest time anyone could buy drug paraphernalia in head shops. There was no law against it. Then suddenly Tommy Chong gets arrested ex post facto. They changed the interpretation of anti-drug laws on the fly so they imprisoned a man who did nothing illegal, and had no chance to stop doing it once they declared it illegal.

        "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens' What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

        - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957

        And for those who don't like Rand, how about this quote, from a guy who preceded Rand by 17 years, and just might have been qualified to have an opinion on jurisprudence, seeing as how it was his entire career and stuff.

        "With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him."

        - Robert H. Jackson [roberthjackson.org], Attorney General (1940-1941), Supreme Court Justice (1948-1954), from a speech given in 1940

      • by Bluesman (104513) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:29PM (#19819231) Homepage
        "I'm in the minority because I like the Bush administration"

        So YOU'RE the one. :-)

        But honestly, for the life of me, I can't think of a reason any group has not to dislike what Bush has done. Liberals hate him by default, he's no conservative, he's done nothing for the libertarians...and he went to war without planning for the inevitable eventuality that the spineless half of the country would stab him in the back when the going got tough.

        I'll even give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's a well-intentioned person who's just a bit too optimistic, and that screws things up for him.

        But given that, what is there to like? Are you a recently expatriated Iraqi in the U.S. with a Mexican illegal immigrant employer who suddenly needed a Medicare prescription drug plan?
    • Easy Answer: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by raehl (609729) <raehl311@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:41PM (#19818609) Homepage
      Identity Theft. EVERYONE has something to hide. The fewer people that have access to your private information, the harder it is for people to steal from you.

      The more people, even people working for the government, that have access to your information, the easier it is for you to be turned into a victim. And in the case of things like identity theft, the less you THINK you have to hide, the more attractive of a target you probably are. (Upstanding citizens probably have good credit to exploit.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by demachina (71715)
        "The fewer people that have access to your private information, the harder it is for people to steal from you."

        True. The problem we have with identity theft, at least in the U.S., is the mechanism we use to identify ourselves dates to a 1936, a nine digit number which, when tied to your name opens nearly all doors to identity thieves. The key problem with it is it used to identify you which means you CAN'T keep it secret because you have to use it everytime you need to identify yourselves for employment,
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:54PM (#19818775) Homepage

      Though it's true that there are good reasons for privacy even if you have nothing to hide, I also wonder if we might want privacy even for those who have something to hide.

      I mean, often the whole thing gets framed around issues like terrorism or murder or child porn, and in those cases it's easy to let your emotions carry you away and think that perhaps the ends justify the means. Obviously, we want those crimes to be exposed and the perpetrator to be caught. On the other hand, we've all done something wrong at some point. We all have skeletons in our closets. Maybe there are some young people reading this who think, "I don't have any secrets!" Well wait. Sooner or later, something will happen in your life that you'll end up being ashamed of, you'll commit some act that saddens you to think about, or you'll do something that you just don't want people to know about.

      These things might not be crimes. They might be that you have some dirty little fetish, that you cheated on your spouse, or that you screwed-over one of your friends when he/she really needed you. It might just be that you've been a bit greedy or harsh to people who didn't deserve it. Or it might even be that you were in a difficult situation, didn't do anything wrong, but the facts taken out of context could be twisted to make you look bad.

      There are plenty of things that are legal that can ruin reputations, destroy relationships, embarrass people publicly, and generally ruin lives. Often, there's no positive purpose in bringing these things to light.

      People sometimes fail to realize that civilization runs on forgiveness, forgetfulness, and ignorance. If everyone's skeletons were suddenly dragged into the light, it'd be very difficult to maintain work relationships and personal relationships. If everyone were suddenly punished for everything they'd done wrong, no one would escape a whipping. The way our system works is that a crime must be noticeable, someone must be hurt, and the police and prosecutors need to believe that punishing the offense is worthy of time, effort, money, and perhaps other risks. It's for the best. A perfect judicial system which punished all offenders fully would catch everyone at some point. We'd all be offenders, criminals, and subject to public ridicule at various points in our lives.

      In the end, such a system would be harmful and oppressive to our society, while the whole point of the judicial system is to help our society maintain stability by reducing the need for vigilante justice/vengence. I'm afraid that, as strange as it may seem, it's better that some of the guilty are not found or prosecuted, and that some crimes go pretty well unnoticed. There's a reason why courts find people "not guilty" of a particular crime, rather than "innocent" in general. It's far better that many of our bad decisions, indiscretions, and unfortunate situations can be stowed away from prying eyes. We ought to maintain an attitude of faith in men, that all men should be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, in spite of the fact that no one is truly innocent.

      • by blitziod (591194) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:54PM (#19819481)
        how many people REALLY are affected by murder, terror, and child porn? I mean outside of the lost freedoms. Sure WTC was a tragedy BUT in terms of other wars, we are relatively safe. Nobody thinks Benlain is going to invade the USA and round us all up into camps. Murder is rarely (esp murder by strangers not spouse, relative, crime partner)committed against the GENERAL public. Cameras at stop lights are not gonna stop gang hits OR spousal murder. The gangs will just break the camera's 1st ( or avoid them somehow) and the spouse will likely kill his/her spouse inside. Child porn, according to reliable statistics is not all that common. Commercial child porn even less so. I study in teh 90's showed most widely distributed child porn ( used in prosicutions) to have been produced LEGALLY in sweden before the laws went into effect banning it. They are busting guys for trading the same old images from th 70's. Those children are my age now...Serial pedophiles( the ones who molest strange children, not relitives ) are fairly rare also. As is stranger child murder or abduction. Do not get me wrong, all the things are bad, shocking horrible acts. They are just also rare and not worth spending resources to go after to the degree that we would be with cameras and such. The impact will be too low and the cost in freedom too great
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537)

          I'm not sure if you think you're disagreeing with me, but that was included in my thinking. It's easy to get a skewed perspective when you imagine extreme crimes, but extreme crimes are rare. Also, if the crimes are extreme enough (murders, rapists, terrorists) then the crimes are probably going to get attention by law enforcement anyway, even without ubiquitous surveillance. If some kind of "all-seeing eye" run by the government would catch criminals and wrong-doers, it would mostly catch people doing t

    • by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc@@@carpanet...net> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:57PM (#19818815) Homepage
      Ahem. This all makes it sound very rhetorical or academic.

      "Oh, if we give them power, they might be corrupt"... you sound paranoid, you sound like you might be hiding something. Try this...

      This is not about what they "might do", its about what they HAVE DONE.

      It is well known fact that before the requirement that warrants be issued and that there was review of wiretaps, that the FBI wiretapped none other than the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Are we to believe that the good reverend, one of the heroic leaders of the civil rights movement was a dangerous criminal and needed to be watched?

      Forget the theoretical, we need not look far to find real tangible cases of abuse of power. It is not the ability of power to be abused, it is the fact that it has been abused. The watchers have already been proven untrustworthy. There is more than ample real indisputable evidence.

      Sure we can understand why a person in power in the 60s would have felt the need to watch the good reverend doctor. However, doesn't that make all the more certain the case that it is folly to allow their whims to direct such powers without real oversight?

      -Steve
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by The_Wilschon (782534)
        Actually, MLK Jr. was a criminal, according to the laws on the books at the time. That was kind of the whole point of civil disobedience. Most people today believe that what he did was morally right, but legally it most assuredly was not.
      • by jafac (1449) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:56PM (#19819499) Homepage
        You can go back to the wiretapping of Dr. King.
        Or you can go back to Nixon's abuses; the reason why the rubber-stamp FISA court was created (that Bush ignores).

        Or you can listen to the rhetoric from the right that; people arguing against wiretapping, etc. are guilty of "pre-9/11 thinking". To wit: those people are guilty of pre-1776 thinking. Uncontrolled government surveillance was one of King George III's specialties. No, he didn't have anything like listening devices, or special recording switches sitting at internet routing offices. He had gangs of thugs, called "redcoats" who could enter your home, and take whatever they liked, and charge you with treason if you were friends with guys like Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, et. al. No trial was necessary, and you couldn't demand to see the evidence against you in order to contest it. Frankly, it's why we have a Declaration of Independence, a Constitution, and a Bill of Rights (particularly the 4th Amendment) in the first place. Anyone who forgets these lessons, really ought not be talking about how to best govern this country. They're free to do so; which is a good thing, because those of us who ARE familliar with American history, can readily identify the morons as soon as they open their mouths.
    • Third definition (Score:3, Informative)

      by phorm (591458)
      Actually, the third one is a good point. There are a lot of abuses of personal information, and the more that is available the more abuses there will be:

      Because you might do something wrong with my information.

      All the companies that "lose" your credit card info and others seem to get slaps on the wrist. Having your credit ruined can ruin your life. Now how about if somebody gets access to your more personal info. Suddenly you're an even better target for stalking, extortion, and more. *NOT* good.

      Even
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by speculatrix (678524)
      if someone says that "if you have nothing to hide", simply ask them two questions:
      1/ how much do you earn?
      2/ how often do you have sex or masturbate?

      it is inevitable they will take offense. Point out to them that their salary can be estimated from their job and their lifestyle, and their sex life is surely perfectly normal and the same as everyone else so if they won't answer they must be doing something illegal or immoral!

      in both cases most people would be willing to answer the questions in specific circum
    • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:06PM (#19819591) Homepage Journal
      Solove.. Solove... I remember this guy.

      A few years ago, he proposed a pretty damned good set of statutory reforms that would make it possible for private individuals to sue when their privacy was violated. Basically he proposed setting modest standard dollar figure on damages from improper disclosures that lead to things like ID theft. Prior to that, you couldn't sue to recover costs from the rigamarole these data flubs put you through because although clearly they damage you, nobody could put a dollar figure on the amount of that damage. Without that "per se" damage figure, none of your other costs were recoverable.

      This was a pretty good idea, because the basic stance of US law since the 1970s is that it is not up to the Government to fix things if somebody violates your privacy, except in a few egregious special cases. The explicit philosophy since the 1973 HEW Report on data privacy is that it's up to you to bring the malefactors to account, and the only way to do that is by suing. Since you can't sue if the initial crime doesn't have dollars attached to it, you're SOL.

      This guy is worth listening to, I think.

    • by AncientPC (951874) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @08:01PM (#19820053)

      Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition.
      In the 1920 the US census added a harmless new field: nationality. Two decades later this information was used to round up citizens into German and Japanese internment camps during WW2.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:13PM (#19818217)
    Pull down your pants.
    • Better way: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by freeweed (309734) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:17AM (#19824943)
      No, you pull down THEIR pants.

      This whole question to me can be summed up in a single 15 minute debate I had in an ethics class years ago. One of the (female) students was arguing that surveillance cameras all over public places were a very good thing, because they could help prevent (or at least prosecute) rape/assault.

      When I pointed out to her that she is many more times as likely to be assaulted/raped by her boyfriend/husband, and then asked her if it wouldn't make more sense to put a camera in her bedroom. I then asked if we should have the police monitoring her daughter 24/7, especially in their beds and in the bathroom, because again, they're far more likely to be abused by a family member (and in such private places as that) ... at this point she stopped arguing.
  • by jshriverWVU (810740) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:14PM (#19818233)
    IF you enjoy your privacy with "nothing to hide" but generally just like being a hermit of sorts, or just living your life without a bunch of statistics attached to you, that should be reason enough. As an American isn't it a right not to be forced into situations that would divulge information about ourselves? Not because "there's something to hide" just that a person man want to live a peaceful life without numbers, statistics, and data mining attacking your personal peace.
  • Bargaining (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LeadSongDog (1120683) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:15PM (#19818247)
    Would you want the used car salesman to know what's in your bank account?
  • by Blnky (35330) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:16PM (#19818257)
    I have always taken the stance of: "If I have done nothing wrong why do I not deserve the right of privacy?"
  • lol at article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:17PM (#19818265) Journal
    One of his arguments is: "Show me yours and I'll show you mine." I could just imagine someone saying this to a cop.
  • just ask... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by locust (6639) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:17PM (#19818273)
    the jews. They had nothing to hide at all.
    • Re:just ask... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:54PM (#19818779)
      And not too long afterwards they also had nowhere to hide.
      • Re:just ask... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:07PM (#19818947)
        Just ask the jews. They had nothing to hide at all.

        And not too long afterwards they also had nowhere to hide.

        I'm not Jewish, as it happens ... but those two lines ought to give anyone pause. Especially if you're in the "I've nothing to hide so I'm safe" camp.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by erroneus (253617)
          Indeed. I cannot agree more. When people people who make the rules, change the rules, ANYONE can be a criminal.
          • Re:just ask... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:00PM (#19819537)
            They don't need to change the rules any longer. They haven't had to for over a hundred years. So many human activities have been classified as criminal in our society the government (any government, Federal, State, local) can nail you any time they choose, if they want to make the effort. Just being targeted, even if you ultimately win in court (assuming you have your day in court) is punitive for most people, given the cost of justice today. If we ever want to return to something resembling a "free" country, we're going to have to toss out reams of law.

            Truly a sad state of affairs. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if my comments here on Slashdot are eventually used against me in some way. A lot of us have posted stuff on this site that might be considered "subversive" in some context, particularly the anti-intellectual-property rants that pop up regularly.
  • by Gospodin (547743) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:18PM (#19818293)
    It's a 23-page PDF. I read up to the table of contents and gave up.
  • by oskay (932940) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:19PM (#19818307) Homepage
    "So why are you wearing clothes?"
  • illegal vs ethical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluprint (557000) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:20PM (#19818331) Homepage
    Off-hand, the main problem with that argument is that it assumes that legal behavior and ethical/moral behavior are exactly the same.

    If the government is watching, they are obviously looking for anything they don't like. This could be generally illegal behavior, or behavior that is threatening to the continued operation of that institution.

    In either case, if you accept monitoring because "you have nothing to hide" you assume that the standards of what should be allowed and whether the institution should continue to exist should rest with the government. To put it another way, you assume they have perfect judgement in regard to what should be happening in regard to monitored behavior of citizens.

    So (for example), maybe the government should be overthrown (because it does some badness such that it deserves to be disolved). Obviously any existing government that needs to be overthrown isn't going to support that notion. By targeting the government's ability to monitor, we better allow for the possibility that a government that is no longer serving the needs of its people might get overthrown (I'm assuming, for the purposes of this example, that "being overthrown" is probably necessary on some regular basis).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Off-hand, the main problem with that argument is that it assumes that legal behavior and ethical/moral behavior are exactly the same.

      You're still giving them too much credit. The argument also assumes that perfectly *legal, ethical and moral* behavior/characteristics could never be used to harm their owner. Counterexamples of things I wouldn't want my government/employer/friends/insurance to know about me that break no ethical, moral, or legal bounds:

      The types of sex toys I use with my wife

      Medical condi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:22PM (#19818349)
    ...is given to the bad cops too.

  • The Useful Idiot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sitnalta (1051230) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:25PM (#19818391)
    Who says you have to be doing something illegal to be persecuted? So to answer the question "I've got nothing to hide" my response would be "Don't worry, they'll find something."
  • by loteck (533317) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:26PM (#19818403) Homepage
    Here's a real cute 'saying', and it's the only one that matters:

    "The right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

    In the US, this is the foundation of privacy. It is a mandate to those who govern from the people who allow them to govern. If you really need to ask why, your ignorance of history is so staggeringly complete that it can only be attributed to being negligently willful.

    • by secPM_MS (1081961) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:59PM (#19818835)
      But this says nothing about monitoring a person's movements in public - where and when you go anywhere. Something that anybody in a public space can see is public. The lack of privacy in small towns is legendary - and not necesarily all bad. This issue is being framed as a governmental monitoring issue alone. This is an oversight. What if all the monitoring were publically available (say on the local cable network) so that you had to assume that everybody - the police, your family, your friends, and your minister could know where you went and what you did in public? Would that be better or worse? In some respects, that is what living in a small town still is. And a small town in Utah even more.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "The right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

      That's their loophole right there in bold face. They just continually dilute the definition of "unreasonable". Search warrents were to burdensome, so the patriot act gives us NSLs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Le tter) which require no judicial oversight. Similarly for wiretaps. If you question it, then you're the enemy. You support th

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:26PM (#19818409) Homepage

    My response to people who say "You've got nothing to hide, what's the problem?" is this:

    Well then, you'll have no objection to having the transaction register of your checking account and credit cards published daily in the newspaper, will you. Nor a record of your phone calls, incoming and outgoing. Or having all your e-mail, personal as well as work, automatically copied to your boss, co-workers and spouse. After all, you've got nothing to hide, right?

    It's not a matter of having nothing to hide. Even people with nothing to hide nonetheless have a lot of things that they don't want broadcast to the world. It's called one's personal business. A really good example is buying your wife an anniversary gift. There's absolutely nothing to hide there, but you still don't want her finding out about it until you give it to her. There's many things in life that're nothing to hide in the sense the "nothing to hide" crowd is using the phrase, but that nonetheless you want to keep private (at least from all but a selected few).

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:27PM (#19818425) Journal
    Privacy is dead. Get over it.

    A famous quote by a powerful man. I don't think I need to cite source.

    But it's true, and pretending otherwise is just more head-in-the-sand thinking. What's important is what we actually DO about it. How can we prevent the bad stuff with lack of privacy from happening? Nearly 10 years ago, an insightful author at then-amazing Wired answered this question [wired.com] in a way I've not seen matched or beaten anywhere else.

    It's not the fact of being private or not, it's what's done about it and why. If we keep pretending we have something we don't, we'll be hurt by things we didn't know were there. We couldn't deal with slavery until we acknowledged that it existed and was a problem. A smoker in denial will remain a smoker until he/she can acknowledge his/her status as a smoker.

    I, for one, find it far more effective to deal with what is than what I'd prefer there was to work on, and the reality is that privacy is dead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NickFortune (613926)

      A famous quote by a powerful man. I don't think I need to cite source.

      Why that's right. I expect everyone here knows that the quote is attributed to Scott McNealy, then CEO of Sun Microsystems. According to a reporter for Wired [wired.com] he was speaking at the launch of Sun's Jini technology in 1999. It's just that by saying so up front, you can avoid sounding like an insecure thirteen year old putting on a pose to try and hide the fact that he's too lazy to type three words into Google.

      Again according to Wire

  • by bigtrike (904535) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:31PM (#19818483)
    If the government has not done any illegal spying on US citizens, why must the records remain sealed?
  • Flip Side (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cytlid (95255) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:33PM (#19818515)
    I think the biggest argument *for* "I've got nothing to hide" is the fact that plenty of people will partake in illegal activity if they think noone is watching. I hate to say it, but I think it's a minor part of human nature.

    I call it the halo effect. Watch it, next time your driving. People cut you off, don't use their turn signals, speed, basically drive like idiots. Place a patrol car in the mix, (in fact the second it comes into sight of any of the aforementioned asshole drivers) and suddenly, without warning, little halos appear over every car and everyone is just a cute little perfect driver doing what they're supposed to.

    I love making the analogy of drivers to general society because it allows you to observe people acting privately in a public place. The isolation of the driver from everyone else (aka no real communication) gives this sense of "tunnel vision" where basically people drive as if they're the only ones on the road at all, and somehow the other cars are not really people but automatons just getting in the way.

    So the major premise of the "I've got nothing to hide" crowd, is that plenty of people do, and the ones that squirm in their seats are usually the ones who just might ...

    I'm all for privacy, and don't want too much of my rights eroded away, but honestly, I really don't have anything to hide. I think it's the level of monitoring or whatnot that scares people.

    I didn't read the essay. But I can imagine the guy is outraged at people's nonchalance. "I've got nothing to hide" may generally be perceived as "I don't care", and that's what the author is most likely trying to avoid.

    Give me the middle ground ... I do care if you monitor me too much, but I also do care if you do the things like drive like an asshole when you think noone is looking. With the proper checks and balances, neither side will get overconfident.
  • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:36PM (#19818539)
    ...and play back the tape on prime time TV. Or, just cut to the things that they really don't want, like picking wedgies, adjusting bra fitment, picking noses, kissing and getting touchy-feely, or parts where they did something mildly unethical, lewd, crass, rude, or some other behavior that would embarass them. Or just zoom in on women's low-cut tops and cleavage, or butts and "whale tail" thong sightings...

    I guarantee that nearly everyone who saw such footage of themselves would be horrified beyond belief. When I was in high school I did a presentation on why video surveillance of innocent people was wrong. I hid a camera (which was very hard given the size of the average camcorder in 1995) in the classroom where it recorded, from a side vantage, my presentation and the class receiving the presentation unawares. I had the instructor's permission so that someone was aware of what I was doing. To underscore my point, to end my presentation I walked over, exposed the camera for the class, stopped the tape, took it out, and put it in the VCR, to play it for the class for a few minutes. The students, by and large, were irate. Even (maybe especially) those who were defending the position that surveillance was okay were mad. The principal received at least four telephone calls from angry parents, and several students complained quite angrily or tearfully to the teacher how what I did was wrong. There was no punitive action taken upon me (the Principal was very cool about some of this sort of thing), and the students learned a valuable lesson in privacy.
  • by ReverendLoki (663861) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:36PM (#19818543)

    If you've got nothing to hide, then you won't mind taking off your clothes for me.

    Don't know about how well it works in a realm of debate and discourse, but so far it hasn't gotten me anything but slapped in the singles bars.

  • Just because... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lordvalrole (886029) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:40PM (#19818603)
    you have nothing to hide doesn't mean something can't get used against you in the future. People who say that "they have nothing to hide" either they are lying or don't think about what they are saying. Laws can change and laws are different in every state, in every country, and in every situation. Just saying that you have nothing to hide doesn't mean that it can't be used against you 40 years from now. Take a look at celebs and politicians. People dig and dig until they find something that is controversial and that can be used against them even though they did it 10-20+ years ago.

    I am sorry but the least people know about me the better. I don't want people knowing everything I do or don't do. I don't want the government to use whatever data mining they have gathered about me and use that later. We can't stop terrorists by data mining. We can't stop terrorism because it is abstract. Start taking away any more freedoms in America it will start pissing more people off and homebrew terrorism will start happening.

    Unless we can make the government completely crystal clear and see exactly what they do behind closed doors...they aren't welcomed into mine.

    Who knew that minority report could feel so real these days. Americans could care less about these topics. As long as they have American Idol and entertainment...they could care less about our government and our freedoms. One of the best quotes from a movie and it holds true today.

    Gracchus: Fear and wonder, a powerful combination.
    Gaius: You really think people are going to be seduced by that?
    Gracchus: I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it's the sand of the coliseum. He'll bring them death - and they will love him for it.
    -gladiator
  • Lame article ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Syncerus (213609) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:45PM (#19818659)
    Well, I downloaded the PDF and waded my way through the turgid prose. The sad truth is that the subject is very interesting and timely. Unfortunately, the author really has nothing insightful to say on the subject. The 25 pages of text are clunky and directly focused on academic publication. He writes a great deal, but doesn't SAY anything. How can he say so little with so many words?

    The only thing that I took from his publication is that he doesn't like the Bush Administration. That's fine with me; everyone is entitled to his own opinion. My problem is that this issue as such is far greater than any current administration. It's one of the fundamental questions about the relationship between the individual and the state, and deserves to be treated as an issue of profound significance.

    If this is the best justification of our right to privacy, then we're in serious trouble.
  • My take (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheDarkener (198348) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:03PM (#19818879)
    I've heard the "I have nothing to hide" response many times. Look at it from outside the box:

    It all comes down to WHO has this information (and for what purposes). EXAMPLE: I, for one, have a big problem with public security cameras. Why? I really don't give a sh*t if everyone watches me walk/drive/ride my bike down the street. The problem I have is that EVERYBODY can't watch me, as I could them. A few "privileged" people can. That gives them a certain power over the general public, which is bad (IMHO).

    But why? Who cares if some guy/gal can watch me and others can't? Well, the thing is, we're all human. We all have the same fallacies, including when we're given a certain amount of power over others, we tend to want to use it. Some might just laugh at people picking their nose at a stoplight, others might start noting when certain people go certain places. This creates a very dangerous situation. Certain people will have a lot of information about other peoples' lives, which makes me, anyway, very uncomfortable. What if I have an argument with someone in another car at a stoplight? What if that person is the security monitor's friend? What if that person asks the security monitor to find out where I go after 5:00pm every day, so he can meet me there to put a bullet in my head? That gives them unfair advantage, because I cannot do the same thing. They are monitoring my life, but I can't monitor theirs. It's unbalanced, and unfair.

    I believe Google is a GOOD company. They collect information about EVERYONE and EVERYTHING available on the web and beyond - and they allow EVERYONE access to it, not just a few people who might get power trips and use the information to their advantage.

    I have no problem with having cameras IN MY HOME, as long as EVERYONE ELSE does too, and it's all available online for anyone to view - no special privileges, no "Access denied", and let's take it a step further and allow you to see who's viewed your cam and at what time. That's not 1984, that's just using technology in a fair manner.

    I also have a problem with Myspace and "Private" profiles. That is completely counter-productive for a social networking site. The point is to meet other people, find out about them, etc...but if their profile is set to private, you can't see but their default pic and their headline. That just makes other people want to retreat into "security" mode because it makes them think they should hide their information, too. Now, you don't have a social networking site - you have a bunch of people who have advantage over others, because they can see your info but you can't see theirs in exchange.

    I have a Youtube profile (link in my sig). I upload vlogs about my personal beliefs, things in my life, etc. because I saw others who were open with themselves and felt like I could benefit from doing the same thing. And I did. I feel so good about being able to put myself up where ANYONE can see and hear me speak my mind - it's made me a much stronger (and open) person. It creates a stronger community, based on openness and equal power over information. I can watch other peoples' vlogs/videos, and see what kind of person they are too. I've made many friends over YT, and I encourage everyone here to consider vlogging.

    Now if YT made people start paying for the privilege of uploading videos, that creates separation too. Not everyone has 20 bucks (or even 5 bucks) a month to spend on something like vlogging. It would allow a certain subset of "privileged" folks to express themselves, and others not. That's bad.

    It's the same with software. We *all* know open-sourced software is good because it allows anyone to see how it ticks, and modify it for themselves. But take what Microsoft did with the BSD TCP/IP stack (under the BSD license) - they took the code for free, and made billions off of it, giving nothing back (AFAIK). It creates imbalance, and imbalance is bad.

    You give what you take, and that makes the world thrive.
  • by RNLockwood (224353) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:09PM (#19818979) Homepage
    So, let's see if I understand the privacy argument. One don't deserve privacy if one has something to hide and one shouldn't care about loss of privacy if one has nothing to hide. Is that right?

    Therefor the Bush Administration's refusal to allow staffers to testify to congress regarding the Justice Department purge proves that they do have something to hide.
  • by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:10PM (#19818991) Homepage
    I have nothing to hide if every member and employee of the government is entirely faithful to the laws and to reasonable ethical norms, and would never abuse the powers of justice for political ends. Given the recent thorough abuse of the Department of Justice for political ends, coupled with my reasonable belief that high members of our current government most likely are literally guilty of treason, and will be without restraint in avoiding just consequences for their treasons ... yeah, I have nothing to hide. There's no reason they would accuse anyone politically like me of "siding with the terrorists" now, is there?
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:32PM (#19819251)
    You have nothing to hide. Yet. You sure that your sexual preference will be legal forever? Are you sure that the information you're freely sharing with your friends has not been patented and thus you're infringing? Can you be certain that laws won't change and suddenly what you've been doing forever is suddenly "illegal"?

    Find out their hobby and start constructing around it.

    They like fishing? So, are you sure your lure isn't found to be "cruel to animals", or that the sink you use isn't going to be seen as environmentally threatening? Or that fishing isn't outlawed altogether because your enjoyment doesn't matter concerning how cruel it is to the fish?

    It's model trains? Say, are you aware that the information you love to download about those tracks belong to the company that made them, and that they can come after you for infringing their copyright? And the buildings you use for your almost-like-real miniature towns, they look incredibly well suited as a three dimensional map for a terror attack. You sure that "model train club" isn't just a front?

    They're into traveling? So you don't mind the feds to know where you go, that's fine... but you're aware that the political climate can change in many parts of this world quickly, right? Say, you traveled a lot to Gernericstan, and they just recently turned into another Afghanistan... care to tell us what exactly you did every time you went there?

    At the very least the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" attitude can get you into a lot of unpleasant situations. Laws change, and not to the "better". They're more and more constricting, less and less freedom to do what you please is left, and sooner or later there will be a law that makes you a target, because what you used to do is suddenly very illegal. Smoking is on the verge of being outlawed in some countries. Would you like to be known as a heavy smoker? It's quite addictive, so the feds will KNOW that you don't simply quit, or that it's very, very hard to. They will want to watch you, just in case you fall back into your old habit.

    And this can happen in many ways. Nobody just lives to work, people have their pastimes and hobbies. It can happen that your hobby is suddenly outlawed.

    And, just to get Godwin into this posting somehow, the first (that I know about) to come up with the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" spin was Joseph Goebbels. If you don't know the guy, look him up. And ponder for a moment what this means.

    If complete surveillance is in place, there is no chance to overthrow an oppressive regime. Any kind of dissent will be immediately identified and eliminated. By allowing it to happen, you throw yourself to the whims of the state. Essentially, you're giving up your liberty. If you trust your country and your government, most of all, if you trust it not to change in a way you wouldn't enjoy, it's no problem.

    For me it is a problem. I cannot predict the future.
  • In hiding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:47PM (#19819393) Homepage Journal

    At the base of the fallacy, as Bruce Schneier has noted, is the "faulty premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong."
    Or put it another way: locking the bathroom door is not an admission of guilt!
  • by The Only Druid (587299) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:04PM (#19819575)
    The article makes a simple, fundamental pair of mistakes that renders it pointless and redundant: (a) there is a difference between complaining about the transparency of so-called invasions of privacy and complaining about the actual invasions (he does only the former); and (b) there is a difference between keeping information private from the government as opposed to keeping it private from private individuals.

    By neglecting these points, he just engages in intellectual puffery. He hasn't argued at all against the "I have nothing to hide" argument, because he hasn't even addressed it. Chicanery.
  • Geese ... Gander (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brian_d_w (793870) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:13PM (#19819639)
    Shouldn't the same logic apply to the government? Why is it ok for the feds to make everything secret? They must be doing illegal things to justify their instance on secrecy for official proceedings. If I have no right to privacy, why do they?
  • Things get simpler (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:18PM (#19819677) Homepage Journal
    if you have a definition of privacy. But the definition of privacy is very, very tricky. In practice, privacy gathers together a wide variety of things that seem to be connected, but no in an obvious way.

    It could be people listening in on your phone calls.

    It could be people working to ruin your reputation or to spoil a relationship you have with somebody, by selectively chosen but roughly true stories (false light).

    It could be somebody secretly watching you.

    It could be somebody openly dogging you as you go from public place to public place.

    It could be somebody looking over your shoulder as you conduct a bank transaction.

    It could be your neighbor's spotlight shining in your bedroom window at 3AM.

    It could be somebody failing to uphold a responsibility they have to treat information they hold about you in confidence.

    After years of thinking about this, I have come to this conclusion: all these things are in one way or another crimes against autonomy. Even the neighbor's spotlight it a crime against your right to direct your own attention. As a result, I came up with this definition (which I describe further in a blog entry [blogspot.com]):

    Privacy is the right of an individual or group to be free from unreasonable interference in the conduct of their affairs or in their thoughts.


    This covers an important point: privacy is not just about being "left alone". It is about being able to engage with others without third parties (like the government, your boss, or your next door neighbor) sticking their nose in where it doesn't belong.

    So, the idea behind "You have nothing to hide" is really much, much more sinister than it sounds. It implies, in effect, that you are nobody, at least when it comes to making decisions for yourself. It is not for anybody else to decide what you should or should not hide.

  • by geekotourist (80163) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:25PM (#19819735) Journal
    What I think is the Best Essay Ever on Privacy [privcom.gc.ca] comes from the former privacy commissioner of Canada. In his 2003 overview to his privacy report to Canada he writes why privacy is a fundamental human right, and he warns Canada not to give away rights now eroded or gone in the U.S., especially if it's at the U.S. government's request. It's a short sharp essay, well-worth the reading.

    Sad part is that 4 years on Canadians have been forced to adopt what he warned about, and the US has gotten worse. Thing about the proverbial frog in the stovetop bath is that everyone thinks that if you know about the frog in the pot, you can't possibly be the frog in the pot.

    A few extracts:
    "In the months immediately following September 11, I was in fact quite optimistic that, with regard to privacy, the Government was on the whole being balanced and thoughtful in its response. But now the floodgates appear to have burst. Now "September 11" is invoked as a kind of magic incantation to stifle debate, disparage critical analysis and persuade us that we live in a suddenly new world where the old rules cannot apply. If Parliament and the public at large have been slow to react, it is probably because for most people, most of the time, privacy is a pretty abstract concept. Like our health, it's something we tend not to think about until we lose it - and then discover that our lives have been very unpleasantly, and perhaps irretrievably, altered. But though we tend to take it for granted, privacy - the right to control access to ourselves and to personal information about us - is at the very core of our lives. It is a fundamental human right precisely because it is an innate human need, an essential condition of our freedom, our dignity and our sense of well-being.

    "The truth is that we all do have something to hide, not because it's criminal or even shameful, but simply because it's private. We carefully calibrate what we reveal about ourselves to others. Most of us are only willing to have a few things known about us by a stranger, more by an acquaintance, and the most by a very close friend or a romantic partner. The right not to be known against our will - indeed, the right to be anonymous except when we choose to identify ourselves - is at the very core of human dignity, autonomy and freedom.

    ..If we allow the state to sweep away the normal walls of privacy that protect the details of our lives, we will consign ourselves psychologically to living in a fishbowl. Even if we suffered no other specific harm as a result, that alone would profoundly change how we feel. Anyone who has lived in a totalitarian society can attest that what often felt most oppressive was precisely the lack of privacy.

    But there also will be tangible, specific harm. [..Examples given...]

    If information that is actually about someone else is wrongly applied to us, if wrong facts make it appear that we've done things we haven't, if perfectly innocent behavior is misinterpreted... we will be at risk of finding ourselves in trouble in a society where everyone is regarded as a suspect. By the time we clear our names and establish our innocence, we may have suffered irreparable financial or social harm...If we have to live our lives weighing every action, every communication, every human contact, wondering what agents of the state might find out about it, analyze it, judge it, possibly misconstrue it, and somehow use it to our detriment, we are not truly free..."

    " One of the clearest lessons of history is that the greatest threats to liberty come not when times are tranquil and all is well, but in times of turmoil, when fidelity to values and principle seems an extravagance we can ill afford. History also teaches us that whenever we have given in to that kind of thinking, we have lived to regret it. At the time, the loss of freedom might seem small, trivial even, when place

  • by Flunitrazepam (664690) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @08:00PM (#19820047) Journal
    Newsgroups: alt.privacy.clipper,sci.crypt
    Subject: A Parable.
    References: <1993Apr20.013747.4122@cs.sfu.ca> <1993Apr21.210353.15305@microsoft.com>
    Distribution: usa
    Organization: Partnership for an America Free Drug

    scottmi@microsoft.com (Scott Miller (TechCom)) writes:
    >Stikes me that all this concern over the government's ability
    >to eavesdrop is a little overblown... what can't they do today?
    >My understanding is that they already can tap, listen, get access
    >exc. to our phone lines, bank records, etc. etc again.

    Well, they can't listen in on much of mine, since I already use
    cryptography for much of my electronic mail, and will start using it
    for my telephony as soon as practical.

    However, allow me to tell a parable.

    There was once a far away land called Ruritania, and in Ruritania
    there was a strange phenonmenon -- all the trees that grew in
    Ruritainia were transparent. Now, in the days when people had lived in
    mud huts, this had not been a problem, but now high-tech wood
    technology had been developed, and in the new age of wood, everyone in
    Ruritania found that their homes were all 100% see through. Now, until
    this point, no one ever thought of allowing the police to spy on
    someone's home, but the new technology made this tempting. This being
    a civilized country, however, warrants were required to use binoculars
    and watch someone in their home. The police, taking advantage of this,
    would get warrants to use binoculars and peer in to see what was going
    on. Occassionally, they would use binoculars without a warrant, but
    everyone pretended that this didn't happen.

    One day, a smart man invented paint -- and if you painted your house,
    suddenly the police couldn't watch all your actions at will. Things
    would go back to the way they were in the old age -- completely
    private.

    Indignant, the state decided to try to require that all homes have
    video cameras installed in every nook and cranny. "After all", they
    said, "with this new development crime could run rampant. Installing
    video cameras doesn't mean that the police get any new capability --
    they are just keeping the old one."

    A wise man pointed out that citizens were not obligated to make the
    lives of the police easy, that the police had survived all through the
    mud hut age without being able to watch the citizens at will, and that
    Ruritania was a civilized country where not everything that was
    expedient was permitted. For instance, in a neighboring country, it
    had been discovered that torture was an extremely effective way to
    solve crimes. Ruritania had banned this practice in spite of its
    expedience. Indeed, "why have warrants at all", he asked, "if we are
    interested only in expedience?"

    A famous paint technologist, Dorothy Quisling, intervened however. She
    noted that people might take photographs of children masturbating
    should the new paint technology be widely deployed without safeguards,
    and the law was passed.

    Soon it was discovered that some citizens would cover their mouths
    while speaking to each other, thus preventing the police from reading
    their lips through the video cameras. This had to be prevented, the
    police said. After all, it was preventing them from conducting their
    lawful surveilance. The wise man pointed out that the police had never
    before been allowed to listen in on people's homes, but Dorothy
    Quisling pointed out that people might use this new invention of
    covering their mouths with veils to discuss the kidnapping and
    mutilation of children. No one in the legislature wanted to be accused
    of being in favor of mutilating children, but then again, no one
    wanted to interfere in people's rights to wear what they liked, so a
    compromise was reached whereby all homes were installed with
    microphones in each room to accompany the video cameras. The wise man
    lamented few if any child mutilations had ever been solv
  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:21PM (#19820619) Homepage
    ...where you take what someone says, apply their words to a slightly different context, then make something that was said in innocence into something that is socially embarrassing? I've played both sides of that game from the time I was a teenager, and when you are just goofing off with friends, it's all in fun. Someone turns red and gets flustered, then everything they say to clear up what they really meant only digs the hole deeper.

    We've all played that game, and we all know how easy it can be to string someone up with their own words when the context has been subtlety altered. Now imagine that it's not your friends trying to embarrass you for fun, but it's a prosecutor and he's trying to send you to the deepest, darkest hole he can find. What you said and what you did that got recorded in some computer database may be perfectly innocent, but that doesn't mean someone sufficiently motivated -- or paranoid -- can't twist your actions into something that appears very sinister to twelve of your peers. *That's* why privacy is important.
  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:49PM (#19820815)
    Being a Republican, I believe in a smaller government, and outright REFUSE to let someone compromise my rights to life, liberty, privacy, property, and pursuit of happiness. However, their are SOME "Republicans" who tend to think that being a Republican means a bigger Big Brother, and are starting to act in complete contradiction to what it truly means to be a Republican. Bush is a PRIME example.

    SO, whenever someone counters my 'right to privacy' argument with "Well, what do YOU have to hide?", I always say:

    "Absolutely nothing. Just because I don't want someone knowing everything about me and my habits doesn't mean that I have anything to hide.". Then I ask, "I'd like to look through your credit card statements, FasTrack statements, telephone records, bank records, internet records, computer hard drive, your house, your dresser, and the dog house. Will you let me?"

    The response has ALWAYS been "No way. Why should I?"

    To which I reply, "Well, what do YOU have to hide?"

    I always get an irritated look after the final line. But it proves a point: Just because someone doesn't want you snooping through their life doesn't mean that they are hiding things.

    It's the people doing the snooping that have things to hide.
  • by sherriw (794536) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @08:57AM (#19824165)
    Every time I express indignation about the latest blow to our privacy by the US and/or Canadian government, nearly ALL my friends and family have that exact argument: "I'm not worried about it, I have nothing to hide."

    It drives me crazy because it's NOT about whether you have some dirty little secret you want to hide. It's about freedom. That's what privacy really is. Freedom that we are supposed to be guaranteed under the Charter/Bill of Rights.

    Given the track records of both the Canadian and American governments, do you really trust them with the power that this information gives them over your lives? It's not just about terrorists. In Canada, the health care system is publicly funded. So, what happens if data mining turns up some unhealthy habits- like say you order takeout every night, or that you engage in dangerous sports.

    How many people make minor upgrades to their house or property without the proper permits? Underage drinking, failing to file 100% of your online or out of state/country purchases on your tax return, etc. Most people do some kind of softly-illegal thing that the government would love to know about. And since the MPAA has the government wrapped around their finger, how about they peak into your life too.

    It may seem paranoid to list these things- but forget for a minute that the government can be corrupt sometimes. Imagine we have a perfect government. You still don't want them knowing everything about you- for the same reason that you don't live in a house with glass walls, and for the same reason you don't want your portable phone being picked up by your neighbour's baby-monitor. Privacy is important and precious. It deserves more than the apathetic attitude of "I have nothing to hide"... because anyone who says that is a fool or a liar.

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

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