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Privacy and the "Nothing To Hide" Argument 728

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 ) * <> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:10PM (#19818191) Homepage
    Wired has already answered [] 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.".
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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 Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @05:18PM (#19818289)
    The perception of freedom is necessary because without this core conviction intellectual thought is simply not possible.
  • 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 [] 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.
  • 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 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.
  • My take (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:03PM (#19818879) Homepage
    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 UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:07PM (#19818937) Homepage Journal

    When high-powered directional mics can discern from half a mile away conversations held inside unshielded brick buildings, is it your right to prohibit interception of your leaked signals?

    Depends... Is WiFi theft [] illegal in many areas? Why?
  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:15PM (#19819051)

    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 conditions I suffer from

    The fact that I occasionally pick my nose

    My affinity for Jane Austen movies

    Whether I'm currently looking for a job

    My love of midget porn

    How often I masturbate

    I could go on, but I think you get the point. ;)

  • by speculatrix ( 678524 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:45PM (#19819379)
    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 circumstances, in the first case to their tax or pension advisor, in the second to their doctor... but in both cases they would expect the conversation to be kept private.
  • by AltEnergy_try_Sunrei ( 1121435 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:50PM (#19819443)
    A very recent example from CNN. Doctors apparently do not break the patients privacy when they remain anonymous: "The prognosis is not good and he is not likely to survive," a member of the medical team that treated him at the Royal Alexandra Hospital near Glasgow said on condition of anonymity because details about patients' condition are not to be made public." This is of course the media twisting the patients right to privacy...
  • by StewedSquirrel ( 574170 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:52PM (#19819463)
    Agreed, wholeheartedly.

    Another example may be the retroactive increases to the statute of limitations.

    There was a man tried and convicted due to recorded confessions he made AFTER the statute of limitations had run out. Because of his confessions, the legislator moved to increase the statute of limitations RETROACTIVELY, and therefore, he was arrested, and convicted of the crime he admitted to having committed.

    I heard a number of people cheering this action, but I couldn't help but see yet another erosion in the freedoms that made the US an example to the world.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Easy Answer: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by demachina ( 71715 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:17PM (#19819669)
    "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, banks, credit cards and assorted other purposes. We got away with it back in the age where everything was on paper and moved from point A to point B by hand, and the paper was locked up in buildings, but in the computer and network age it is pure insanity that we still rely on this archaic system for identification. It is an engraved invitation for hackers to get rich, especially when combined with the online use of credit cards and banks. The staggering losses to identify theft are going to just continue to explode and amazingly no one is doing anything about it.

    The solution is well known and wouldn't be that hard to implement. The social security administration urgently needs create a public key digital signature repository and allow people to go to a Social Security office, prove their identity and register their digital signature. Then everything which requires electornic identification needs to require a person use their digital signature and private key to prove their identity. If you don't create a digital signature then you continue with the current system and are extremely vulnerable to identity theft. If you have a digital signature then you have some confidence that when you bank, or use your credit card online that there is a system at work that doesn't date back to before the computer age. You could even go in and change your digital signature once in a while, something you can't easily do with your name and social security number.
  • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:23PM (#19819719) Homepage Journal

    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 [] 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 Wired, McNealy was commenting in response to Intel's recent U-turn regarding placing unique identifiers in each of their chips. So it more likely that McNealy's comment was self-serving, rather than indicative of his being a fount of Ethical Truth. Although in fairness, his comments do have a measure of truth in a networking context - you can't do much without leaving your IP behind you. But then again, this was also before the use of NAT gateways and dynamic IPs became quite so widespread, so even then, he doesn't have too much credibility.

    Incidentally the correct quote would seem to be "you have zero privacy anyway, get over it". This at least is to McNealy's credit, since "privacy is dead" is a profoundly stupid thing to say. Privacy cannot be dead, because it was never alive. Privacy is some fragile, endangered creature that can be slain by a terrorist bomb, or by an uncaring government. Privacy is a courtesy we offer to one another. And if groups, be they government departments or struggling computer companies, should choose to withdraw this courtesy it is by their choice that they do so.

    Nearly 10 years ago, an insightful author at then-amazing Wired answered this question

    That would be David Brin, well known writer of science fiction. I suppose that when you say that, he loses some of the gravitas that might otherwise attach to "an insightful author". Perhaps that's why you shied away from citing Mr.McNealy as well.

    That said, I have to admit that have some sympathy for Brin's views on this matter, at least as he went on to develop them in Earth. He seems to think that the problem with lack of privacy is not the lack itself, but the asymmetry of the arrangement. Various groups are allowed to know all they like about me, but I am not allowed to know anything about them. The trouble I have there is that I didn't find the picture of society in Earth particularly appealing, and I'm not at all convinced that it would work as advertised. It did make for an interesting novel, though.

    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.

    Well, I still don't think it's especially useful to anthropomorphise abstract concepts, especially ones founded in courtesy and dignity. On the other hand, if you really believe that, perhaps you'd like to show us the way forward. You could start by posting your real name, email address, age, racial background, social security number, marital status, any major illnesses, any history of family illness. Just for a start. I'm sure once we see well you fare in a post privacy world, we'll all be eager to join you.

  • by maspatra ( 1031940 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:26PM (#19819747)
    Seriously, everyone has something to hide. Even if you don't think you do, you do.

    As TFA says, maybe that something isn't something illegal, per se. But who out there doesn't have something personal and private about their lives that they would be upset or embarrassed if it was known to the public at large, or even just a few random strangers? I don't think I've ever committed any crime in my life worse than jaywalking and I still don't want other people reading my email or listening in on my phone conversations; it's none of their goddamn business. Show me someone that's comfortable with anything and everything about their lives being aired to the public and I'll show you someone with serious psychological issues.

    This more than anything else is why privacy laws are so important--in fact I'd go as far to say that if that means that some people pull off crimes or whatever that they might not have gotten away with sans privacy, that's just the price to pay. I'd be willing to take the chance that something awful might happen to me or a loved one because quite frankly, without privacy life would suck.
  • by cduffy ( 652 ) <> on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @08:59PM (#19820501)

    A few years back, we had another simpering wimp... He was so focused on being a "man of peace", that it became a weapon that was used against him and the entire US.
    I'll thank you to back up that assertion. Prior to 9/11, Bush was doing less to combat terrorism than Clinton had before him -- despite Clinton warning him at the exit interview that he considered al-Qaida to be the most serious national security threat facing the county at that time.

    Do you really want to be represented by a brawling frat boy? Frat boys make enemies unnecessarily -- but hatreds between distant peoples are not so easily healed as those between individuals, and a mistake made now can result in a country which is still our foe fifty years later. Far better to absorb some blows and mete out a measured and effective response than to flail around wildly, trampling over one's stated values and destroying a reputation which has taken centuries to build.

    Roosevelt had it right -- walk softly, and carry a big stick. Walking softly in the world of international politics is something done by a statesman, not a frat boy; deciding wisely when to wield the stick, the same.
  • by TapestryDude ( 631153 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:21PM (#19820627) Homepage
    ... and I can have that man executed for treason. I can't remember where this quote comes from, but the gist is that if you set out to prove someone guilty, and your system has no proper checks and balances (fifth amendment, habeas corpus, etc.) then it's quite easy. We saw this happen with the Starr investigation of Clinton: every roadblock that indicated a lack of wrongdoing was interpreted as an ever greater conspiracy and ever greater guilt. Remember that amenesty international was started around a case of two men simply toasting "to freedom"; they were imprisoned for treason.
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:28PM (#19820679) Journal
    Privacy is only a way to protect you IF THE DATA ISN'T COLLECTED AT ALL.

    Having the government keep it under wraps doesn't mean you have privacy.

    It means that you are easily isolated.

    If everyone is smoking pot, and the government knows through their surveillance who is smoking pot, but for reasons of privacy they do not disclose what they know to the general population, then any time they want to take you in, they can just grab you up, and you will stand alone.

    That's what this is all about.

    1) Make so many laws that everyone is guilty of something.
    2) Convince everyone that it's better to keep things private.
    3) Keep watching all the people and correlating data, but keep what you find secret.
    4) Now everyone is isolated with their guilt, just like everyone else.
    5) Now you can then selectively enforce the laws against those who threaten your power.

    This is how totalitarian states are assembled.

    Now, you may be a believer in privacy. Personally, I am not.

    But if you are going to support privacy, be practical about it. Demand that the data not be collected at all in those cases where it hasn't already being collected, and demand enough transparency of process that you can know absolutely that it never is.

    Don't, however, be idealistic about it and let the governments and corporations keep all the secrets they've already collected.

    If you've already been caught doing something that is technically illegal, and the proof is in some government database somewhere, which would you rather?

    a) Over 50% of the population is also technically guilty of the same thing that you're being judged for doing, but no one outside government offices knows that.

    b) Over 50% of the population is also technically guilty of the same thing that you're being judged for doing, and everyone knows that.

    Be specific about what you support, and don't be led to think that keeping it as a government secret now that it's too little too late is actually giving you any privacy or security. Because it isn't.
  • 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 mombodog ( 920359 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:50PM (#19820825)
    "I have nothing to Hide, but Everything to Protect"
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:57PM (#19820875)
    "We saw this happen with the Starr investigation of Clinton: every roadblock that indicated a lack of wrongdoing was interpreted as an ever greater conspiracy and ever greater guilt"

    OH FUCKING GIVE ME A BREAK! Clinton was guilty as hell and you know it. hence all the road blocking. that's a really poor example as it deals with white house interference in the exact checks and balances you talk about

  • 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.
  • I'm living in Europe where we don't have guns but still we have mostly honest governments that respect, and to some extent even fear, the people

    US spending on the military, even excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, dwarfs the spending of any other nation. We also have colossal intelligence gathering agencies. Our government is in a much stronger position relative to the average citizens than yours - and our current leaders keep reaching for more power, and encountering just token resistance from most of the populace.

    America. Leading the rest of the world in the race to 1984.
  • by The Angry Mick ( 632931 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:50AM (#19825291) Homepage

    One of the biggest problems I have with the idea of "total" enforcement via total surveillance is that there is no distinction made between actions that are minor, or mistakes, and actions that are unadulterated acts of malice.

    How many times in life have we done something that we later learned was against the law? Jaywalking; making a right on red when a sign says not to; parking outside the posted acceptable hours; ignoring the crosswalk lights; changing lanes without a signal; going five miles an hour over the speed limit; spitting on the sidewalk; playing a radio too loud; protesting outside of a "free speech zone"; wearing white after Labor day?

    All of these are minor infractions and, in most cases, not worthy of police attention. Under a total surveillance society, all of these will become punishable events that can stay on an individual's record. The lists of "known criminals" will increase, along with the reasons for government to exclude someone's participation in Democracy. Employer's will deny jobs, or reduce wages, to those with long lists of minor offenses. Insurance companies will deny coverage, or will drastically increase rates to known "criminal risks".

    Total surveillance is not Democracy; it is closer to KGB. And for something like this to come from a country that hated communism with the white heat of a holy crusade, is a sad irony indeed.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson