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Privacy and the "Nothing To Hide" Argument

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the framing-the-debate dept.

Privacy 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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Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (5, Interesting)

thesolo (131008) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818191)

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.".

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (5, Interesting)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (5, Funny)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818463)

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

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (2, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818287)

Or, perhaps a bit more plainly, "Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power..."
It's very hard to convince someone of this, though, when it's their party in power.

Especially when they think their elected leader was largely chosen by God.

I hope I'm not being too specific here.

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (4, Insightful)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818379)

Or, perhaps a bit more plainly, "Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power..."
It's very hard to convince someone of this, though, when it's their party in power. Especially when they think their elected leader was largely chosen by God.
And given that their selected leader was chosen by God, then any abuses by those in power are conveniently justified -- especially any abuses necessary to keep them in power.

whatever (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818335)

All attractive people *should* be legally required to stay naked on warm days because they have nothing to hide.

Re:whatever (0)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818399)

'All attractive people'

Blanket statements like that only show ignorance. You must qualify the remark. I'll help.

All attractive females *should* be legally required to stay naked on warm days because they have nothing to hide.

Re:whatever (1)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818479)

...Ummm, excuse me but that should read "All females that cyberlord_seven finds attractive *should* be legally required to stay naked on warm days because they have nothing to hide.

There, that's MUCH better. :)

Re:whatever (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818505)

ahh but why should we limit it to only warm days.. what about the brisk days.. they can stay inside when cold.. but then require them to stand next to an unblocked window...

just an idea :)

Re:whatever (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818559)

I would like to nominate you as my vice president. Clearly, we share the same ideal and values.

Mod parent UP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818631)

This is one of the most insightful posts I've read in a long time.

Re:whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818705)

"on warm days because..."

No, cold days too. You get to see how big their high-beams are on colder days.

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (4, Insightful)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (5, Insightful)

Blue Stone (582566) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818411)

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

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (4, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818457)

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.

Re:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (1, Insightful)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818729)

I'm in the minority because I like the Bush administration
Now don't think that way, there are plenty of naive people all throughout America.

It's hardly a "fallacy" (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818461)

The entire concept of privacy is based around concealing "wrongs"; that is to say, keeping from public view what would be embarrassing, damaging or otherwise socially unacceptable.

If this were not so, there would be no need for privacy.

The hard fact is, technology has already made the 20th-century concept of privacy obsolete; anyone who promotes it is clinging, Luddite-like, to an ancient ideal irrespective of reality and scientific advancement. 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?

Privacy is a responsibility... viewing it as a right only puts you at a disadvantage, reliant on the state to protect you against the inexorable tide of progress.

Easy Answer: (4, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818609)

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:Wired: The Eternal Value of Privacy (1)

jack455 (748443) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818695)

Wired has already answered this question extremely well.
There's the answer(or answers) to why, but is there a solution? Here are at least my answers to "Why?"

It seems intuitive to say "innocent until proven guilty" but I don't think it is. Why would you assume anything. The truth is that you treat the innocent with respect and discretion. You assume investigations will vindicate the accused.
We could probably agree to not assume either way and find out after the investigation, right?
Not according to US tradition. There was a quote, something like, I'd rather see 50(?) men go free than lock up an innocent man. Well, that's not exact, just paraphrased sort of. But it's a basic idea of freedom. Or maybe it sounds extreme today? Doesn't quite ring true?

No matter how you slice it, talking to most people today about this, they'll treat it as cliche, or it's subversive.
The same concepts, the same assumptions, the same arguments. Why the disconnect? I think it's because we grew up (many of us) hearing the right answers, even being trained to write them on tests, but it isn't applied to today.

Police pull you over and you _feel_ guilty. In the media, an accusation is proof. The courts have been weakening Constitutional protections. And people just aren't that educated. "The Intellectual Elite". And so many of us _have_ broken some law, sometime. I constantly break the DMCA for one. And often drive 30 MPH through school zones at 1AM. We probably are guilty. The solution is to put video cameras on the traffic lights so they can catch me.

OK... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818197)

...so what's Bruce got to hide?!

Way to respond to this argument (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818217)

Pull down your pants.

Re:Way to respond to this argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818495)

wow. that's... perfect. i never have mod points when i need them.

voting ??? (1)

ptr2004 (695756) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818221)

There should be a reason why most democracies have secret ballot !!!

Here's my reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818223)

I have nothing to hide, however I would prefer to not live like a zoo animal under constant observation.

But that's the thing about Thoughtcrime... (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818225)

...you may not even know when you're committing it! We need the government to always watch us.

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (4, Insightful)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818291)

To follow up on my own post for those wondering wtf. My point is, with a lot of information being extracted about you there is harm to your peace. Those statistics can be used against you. Snail mail spam? Extra credit card offerings, people contacting you for donations if you're wealthier, whatever. Even if it's benign, the spread of your personal information just exposes you from everyone to crooks to legitimate (donate to a church) kinda things. While you can always throw away paper, and say no. It still breaks part of your personal peace, even if a little.

Re:Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (2, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818507)

'Even if it's benign'

Thats just it, we don't all agree on what is benign. I don't trust the government to decide for me and quite frankly don't consider the government to be benign. I'm not merely afraid of a change in colors in the future, the decision making government of today is stocked almost exclusively with dirty, corrupt, lying, weasels.

Re:Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818587)

I, as a non-American citizen, sincerely hope I can enjoy the same rights when I visit your, or any other country.
By the chosen words, you almost sound like somebody who is not too concerned about the (lack of) privacy of visitors to the US.

Bargaining (3, Interesting)

LeadSongDog (1120683) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818247)

Would you want the used car salesman to know what's in your bank account?

Re:Bargaining (4, Insightful)

jjh37997 (456473) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818553)

Sure... as long as I can know the history and stats of all the cars he's trying to sell me.

Re:Bargaining (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818661)

I'd be willing to tell him that if he'd tell me what is *really* wrong with the car, and how much profit he is making on the sale.

Punish after conviction (4, Insightful)

Blnky (35330) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818257)

I have always taken the stance of: "If I have done nothing wrong why do I not deserve the right of privacy?"

Take it to the logical extreme (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818263)

I don't know about anyone else here, but you could take it to the logical extreme. "If you have nothing to hide, then you're undoubtedly okay with letting the government install cameras in your bedroom, or bathroom." That usually works well to quiet that argument....

lol at article (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818265)

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... (5, Insightful)

locust (6639) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818273)

the jews. They had nothing to hide at all.

It takes a thief... (1)

bloatboy (170414) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818285)

Show of the same name featured person after person who claimed they had nothing worth stealing. Moreover, that the loss of their worthless material possessions would mean nothing to them.

Once they saw their homes being ransacked, they very quickly changed their tunes. Many felt nausea, revulsion, and commonly, fury.

So, for those who claim you have nothing to hide, you could take a lesson from these people, but, I acknowledge that YMMV.

(oh noes! I should've posted as an AC)

Re:It takes a thief... (1)

Ziwcam (766621) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818535)

Show of the same name featured person after person who claimed they had nothing worth stealing. Moreover, that the loss of their worthless material possessions would mean nothing to them.

Once they saw their homes being ransacked, they very quickly changed their tunes. Many felt nausea, revulsion, and commonly, fury.

So, for those who claim you have nothing to hide, you could take a lesson from these people, but, I acknowledge that YMMV.

(oh noes! I should've posted as an AC)

IIRC, It wasn't that these people claimed they had nothing worth stealing. Nor was it that the loss of their possessions would mean nothing to them. The premise of the show was to show how quickly a thief could go through your house and take you for almost everything you have.

Many of these people thought they were taking proper precautions against thieves, others knew they were under-protected, but agreed to appear anyway. Either way, the team was usually in and out of the house in approx. 5-15 minutes, taking just about every valuable you can think of.

Re:It takes a thief... (1)

bloatboy (170414) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818627)

I agree that most people in the show were as you described. There were several (albeit, a minority) who were more like what I was saying.

Construct of freedom... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818289)

The perception of freedom is necessary because without this core conviction intellectual thought is simply not possible.

Re:Construct of freedom... (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818681)

So you think that non-free men cant intellectually think?

Or do you think contracted people, or political theorists in China, or people somehow indebted to another arent capable of intelligent thought?

In other words: Prove it.

new definition of "short essay" (2, Funny)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818293)

It's a 23-page PDF. I read up to the table of contents and gave up.

Re:new definition of "short essay" (1)

EsabaCZ (921190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818431)

Hitler said the same thing in 1942. We all know how that story ended.

"people willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both - benjamin franklin "

Re:new definition of "short essay" (1)

Cryolithic (563545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818633)

Yay for Godwin!!

Re:new definition of "short essay" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818709)

... and unpunctuated, misquoted, staggeringly overused "rallying" slogans.

That should be the new instant thread-killer.

Re:new definition of "short essay" (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818657)

Is this a mis-parented comment, or did Hitler really complain about a 23 page pdf in 1942?

If so, got a reference?

SSRN - Free Registration Required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818297)

FYI: SSRN requires "free registration" to be able to download and read the PDF document. Would be nice for that to be mentioned in the headline.

Re:SSRN - Free Registration Required (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818393)

Odd...I'm not registered and was able to get it...

Re:SSRN - Free Registration Required (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818517)

It doesn't require registration but it does require you to accept 7 cookies from them.

-:sigma.SB

Re:SSRN - Free Registration Required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818663)

> It doesn't require registration but it does require you to accept 7 cookies from them.

Ah, that's it.

I also got a kick out of the "Download difficulties? Click here!" that wasn't a URL, but a Javashit popup. Enabling Javashit wasn't enough, and I gave up, figuring it was behind a subcription wall.

Your post was the missing link. Javashit had to be enabled and I had to disable the proxy that automatically eats Javashit-foisted third-party cookies.

A tip for academicians who think they're web designers: If you're going to host content that's critical of the Administration, at least have the courtesy to not require us to remove our tinfoil underwear before letting us read it. Whose side are you on, anyway? :)

Proper response? (5, Funny)

oskay (932940) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818307)

"So why are you wearing clothes?"

Re:Proper response? (2, Funny)

SnowNinja (1051628) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818497)

So why are you wearing clothes?
I'm not ;)

Let he (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818313)

who has nothing to hide, take down his blinds first.

Seriously. Ask these people if they have blinds in their windows. Then ask them why. Same goes for computer passwords, window tint, or anything else.

Why do I want privacy? Because it's none of your damn business.

xbox (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818321)

i play xbox with my brother sometimes... its very cool... my brother is 30 years old hes pretty smart... he has 45 iq its the same as heis shoe size.. pretu good considaring 100 is full.... nentendo is cool but wii is beter... i am masetr chief from halo... bcz when i played halo for the second time i knew what was going too happen befor eit happend... so im takeru... its pretty cooll... sonic is cool... i dont like tails though bcz hes sonics girlfrend... i want2 be sonics girlfrend.... sonic is so fast and handsome its increddibnle... sometimes... together... my mom and dad are brother and sister... its prety cool i gess... i herd its prety normal in america.... they love eachother like a father and daugher... theyr so cute together... together... sometimes... xbox... my brother is in wheel chair... but hes cool because hes smart... yea... the boy in the basements said he isnt smart and he say bad thing about my dad... but its no mater... he is chained up... in basement... together... xbox... yea... maybe.

Re:xbox (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818733)

that is some fucking funny shit

illegal vs ethical (5, Insightful)

bluprint (557000) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818331)

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:illegal vs ethical (1)

GrayCalx (597428) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818537)

I find it interesting in your response that you only use the Government as your example. Do you agree that the same could be said for Google? Do you believe Google is worried about threats to their continuing operation by spying on old women in their apartments or cats peeking out from behind a set of blinds?

Or what level of "watching" do you define as illegal/unethical. What about any number of the satellite sites that I can zoom in to view a relatively detailed view of my property. Should I now begin to contemplate the overthrow of said company? Or even the fact that my satellite tv company sells my viewing habits to the highest bidder. Sure thats all right there in the contract when I sign up with them, but is that not also an necessary assumption formed from where you live? London for example, isn't it assumed you are most likely being videotaped if you are on a public street in London, and if thats the case whats the difference between that and the contract I signed with my satellite company?

Now lets go back to your Government example. I'm going to assume from the site you advertise that you're from the US. What if a Chinese satellite has begun some sort of wiretapping on your phones, with no possible way to persecute or in any other way punish you for your observed actions. Is the Chinese government's "ability to monitor" now a target? Is it the enraged citizens responsibility to teach China a lesson... and if so how is that even remotely possible?

What about little Billy Smith from down the street? Who you caught peeking in your bathroom window perhaps trying to catch a glimpse of your wife getting out of the shower. We have laws, in the US at least, peeping-tom laws, or again are you only considering privacy a concern when the US government (specifically this administration I'm guessing) becomes involved?

Its all fine and good to question authority, any good democracy should, but this is not a simple issue of the American Bush-run Government being the only entity keeping track of private citizens. And while your anti-administration attitudes are most definitely applicable to this issue, they are not the only aspect to it.

Any power given to the good cops... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818349)

...is given to the bad cops too.

Allright, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818361)

I had about enough from you fu&*ing terrorists! Assume the position!

Changes in the American definition of morals (1)

easyEmu (977903) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818387)

I would bet that privacy was a concern in years past, because people did not want others all up in their k00l-a1d if they did not even know the flavor. Now, many people could care less if you know about their extra-marital affairs, dishonest practices, that they like p0rn, etc. Morals, or at least keeping up appearances was at one time important. Maybe my line of thought is a little extreme here, but I am not sure if past Americans were concerned if the FBI knew how much money was in their bank account, but they did care if their neighbor knew how little they gave to the church each week. Privacy concerns stemmed from social status not "big brother". Any thoughts on this?

Privacy as a civil service (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818389)

Why put on make up or wear clothes if you have nothing to hide?

Oprah Winfrey. Paris Hilton.

Folks, sometimes privacy is a civil service.

The Useful Idiot (5, Insightful)

Sitnalta (1051230) | more than 7 years ago | (#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."

There's nothing to hide in (xxx) too (1)

LittleStone (18310) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818401)

xxx can be:-
having sex with a spouse: tell these "nothing to hide" supporters letting others to watch them fucking!
pooing: tell these "nothing to hide" supporters letting others to watch them pooing! .....

Cut the cutsie sayings (5, Insightful)

loteck (533317) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818403)

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.

Re:Cut the cutsie sayings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818723)

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

Tell that to the American citizens of Japanese descent during WW2.

My from-the-hip response to "nothing to hide" (2, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818409)

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).

Nothing to Hide, Yet (1)

PaladinAlpha (645879) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818419)

I read the linked essay and found it thorough, if a bit dry. My own thoughts on the matter parallel, I'm sure, that of most people here: sure, I may not have anything to hide right now, but if the government has absolute watch over the people, that gives it the ability to do a lot of dangerous things -- the ability to isolate and persecute groups or individuals through selective legislation, or the ability to further its own ends unfairly. Indeed, who does watch the government? When people speak of having nothing too hide, they forget that the government of this country (any country) is just as human, and just as prone.

Privacy is dead. Get over it. (2, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818425)

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.

Giving up privacy to read about why not to??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818427)

What's up with this? Having to set up an account just to read his paper on privacy? Isn't that backwards?

Has someone posted a bittorrent or something to the PDF without the account requirement?

Equating public monitoring to Privacy violations (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818441)

I ask this. Is it my right to walk down the street naked and expect no one to look at me? Whats under my cloths is my business, but is that still the case if I am naked in public? Everyone wants to speculate on the coming of a future police-state if the cameras go up. If we are gonna debate the issue, debate them on what they currently are.

Thank you! (1)

necro2607 (771790) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818445)

I have been wondering about some good simple explanations of why that argument is so fully retarded, that could be easily understood by any person thoughtless enough to say "I have nothing to hide". Considering how often I hear that coming up in regards to privacy issues, it's about time we have some ammunition against the #1 most annoying argument that supports lessenning of privacy... heh !

There are things that government is not entitled. (1)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818449)

I do have things to hide. Things that are legal, but I still want to keep private. University Pin Numbers, System passwords, personal journals, stored E-mail documents. The government is not entitled to those things. The government is not entitled to any information about my computer. Even outside the realm of law enforcement, if I had nothing to hide, scammers and spammers, and bot net harvesters would have access to my boxen!

Now, yeah, I have porn. Legal consenting adult porn. I'm an adult, I get to have those things. If I have no expectation of privacy in my own affairs, in my own dealings, in what adult I choose to have sex with (or marry). I'm entitled to that. The fact is, in (western civilization) if you have porn on your computer, you are considered to be a 'bad person'.

The problem with the US Government and any other government, is the breakdown of probable cause. These days, cause is whatever the authorities want it to be. There is massive inequity in society, so, all of those who are vulnerable adults have things to hide, we do have something to fear, overbearing governments tend to be the enemies of free people.

In this current climate of fear, you have to be brain dead to think we all have nothing to hide or fear. We all have things to hide, we can only trust our law enforcement officials to a certain arms length extent.

Even worse is, the public at large in counties like Canada, the US, and UK, seem to be electing authoritarian governments that have no respect for the rule of law. I think there are large segments, even if still minorities of the populations of prominent Western nations who don't believe in the various constitutional traditions of their people. They want kings, and they want strong men who will 'keep the bad people away'.

Re:There are things that government is not entitle (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818613)

"The problem with the US Government and any other government, is the breakdown of probable cause. These days, cause is whatever the authorities want it to be. There is massive inequity in society, so, all of those who are vulnerable adults have things to hide, we do have something to fear, overbearing governments tend to be the enemies of free people." Ya know, you act like the government is some foreign entity separated from the people, but in the U.S. the goverment for the people, by the people, and of the people. Even if some tyrannical prisident made it into office, he couldnt order the military to suspend civil rights. Why? Because ours is a volunteer military made of same citizens who would be effected by any unlawful order handed down by the government. And even the poorest of us can raise our right hand and become a member of the most powerful military on Earth.

One possible answer is of course (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818459)

That someday you *may* have something to hide. The argument presupposes an omnibenevolent government. Although people could argue about the benevolence of the current government historically many governments are widely regarded as indisputably malevolent, which is argument enough.

More objections (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818469)

Here are a few more of my favorite ones:

While I may trust this CURRENT government to know what I am doing, we have a democracy. I don't trust the unknown, possibly Islamic fundamentalist government we may have in 30 years not to hunt me down and kill me for being jewish.

While I personally have nothing to hide, I have friends and family that occasionally come over to my house, and use my phone/computer/etc. I do not know that THEY have nothing to hide - specifcally my 80 year old grandma that has glaucoma and lung cancer cooks home made brownies and I don't know that she has not made some special ones just for her.

The question is NOT "what do I have to hide", but instead "what makes you so freakin paranoid that you are wasting your time (and my tax dollars) investigating EVERYONE instead of the few people you have actual evidence of wrong doing"

Trust is a two way street. You want me to trust you with my embarrasing secrets? fine, you have to trust us with yours. Like say, who did you speak to about those secret energy meetings....

A slightly off-topic follow up question (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818481)

I recently was asked why I had refused to allow myself to be fingerprinted by the state, considering it was "voluntary" but carried with it some negative consequences. My answer primarily was "they have no right to do so, and I'm not willing to participate in a system I have a legitamite moral problem with." Everyone else in the cconversation had been fingerprinted already and couldn't understand what the big deal was.

So, can someone offer a better explaination than "I stand at the top of a slippery slope" with regards to fingerprinting?

Re:A slightly off-topic follow up question (1)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818583)

Uhh... you've copyrighted the impressions left behind from your fingertips?

Re:A slightly off-topic follow up question (1)

sxtxixtxcxh (757736) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818691)

wait... so you're asking us to give you a better explanation for why you have a problem with being fingerprinted?

Why does the government have something to hide? (4, Insightful)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818483)

If the government has not done any illegal spying on US citizens, why must the records remain sealed?

Bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818493)

He explains privacy well, but he fails to address that the survailance is supposed to only apply to communications originating in the united states and ending in a foriegn country or the other way around.

But anything and everything that enters into or leaves the soverign territory of the United States is subject to inspection and regulation without warrant.

Those telephone calls oversees?.. the government has the explicit right to monitor them.

Those emails overseas and surfing of overseas web pages... the government has the explicit right to monitor them.

When you leave and enter the united states... customs has the right to search you and your baggage without a warrant.. its all the same.

the need for privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818503)

if we dont like what someone is doing, or just dont like them, then what do we usally do? We talk about what we dont like about them.. is that wrong, no. But if that person finds out about it what do they try to do, shut us up. and if its a person with power, like the president then you just commited a crime if they say so. And off to prison you go, just for stating your opinion....

what i tell the girl next door... (1)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818509)

Why should I take the camera out of your bathroom if you have nothing to hide? Or..why should I get off this ladder outside your bedroom window if you have nothing to hide?
All kidding aside, these people are morons and there is really no way to reason with an unreasonable moron. My advice, get yourself a camera like I did ;)

I'm not so scared of the Governement .... (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818513)

as a whole. I'm scared of the individual in Government who abuses his knowledge against me.

And I hate this data collection by commercial interests, such as, credit bureaus and Choicepoint. And it really pisses me off that in order to get a job, you are now required to have a background check that also includes a credit check - even if your job has nothing to do with handling money. (What's happening is folks with a lot of school debt are not getting jobs because they "fail" the credit check.) And I have no way of checking their data - I think it is completely unethical that ChoicePoint collects this data without allowing me to check it, let alone without my permission.

Flip Side (4, Interesting)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

The "nothing to hide" agument is bullshit x 3 (1)

Barterer (878209) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818531)

More specifically: 1. There are things that are perfectly legal, but embarassing or uncomfortable to expose. Do you want officer Peeping Tom to rifle through your wife's underwear drawer? 2. Some laws are unjust and should be broken. 3. Frame-ups, in combination with bullshit "forfeiture" laws. Do you trust that cop not to "find" bag of weed in your very nice car? And if he does, do you expect to keep it?

Just follow them around recording them... (3, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Just follow them around recording them... (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818565)

Oh, and to counter the arguments about those who say that it's wrong for a citizen to do it but is okay for the government or for law enforcement, get the footage from government cameras via Freedom of Information Act and show that, especially the derogatory or particularly revealing things that are caught, and air that. And, also try to find examples on tape of officers doing illegal things that aren't prosecuted...

If you've got nothing to hide... (4, Funny)

ReverendLoki (663861) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

What about next years government? (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818571)

A person may or may not have something to hide from the current government, but our insistence on privacy isn't merely about today, but about tomorrow, next year, next decade.

History is full of oppressive regimes that turned against it's population years after being heralded as liberators or elected. Why should we not fear what the government might consider a crime tomorrow, or next year?

Biggest. Double. Standard. Ever. (1)

Brad Eleven (165911) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818589)

I'm 100% befuddled by this gang's insistence on spying on us, while they want to hide everything. Now that the Congress is finally exercising some oversight, they cite "executive privilege."

It is my opinion that people who want to be elected or appointed to public office ought to agree to be monitored as a primary condition of the position. I'm far more interested in people who can perform demonstrably than I am in someone who looks good on the telly.

It looks to me like the terrorists won. Our rights are disappearing, the state has spent all of the tax money and more, and we seem to be returning to a feudal system.

Doesn't download for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818591)

Does it require javascript or something?

Also the name attribute on the download link contains quotation chars...

Name=""I've Got Nothing to Hide" and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy"
Perhaps they'd be interested in my paper entitled, Name=""I've Got Illegal Quotation Chars in an Attribute Value" and Other Misunderstandings of Basic HTML"?

Just point to the Bush administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818597)

They have so much to hide, yet they claim they are doing nothing wrong.

Just because... (3, Insightful)

lordvalrole (886029) | more than 7 years ago | (#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

Worth quoting: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818635)

As one commenter aptly notes: ...
To me, the "I have nothing to hide" argument basically equates to "I don't care what happens, so long as it doesn't happen to me"30

One of the difficulties with the "nothing to hide" argument is that it looks for a visceral kind of injury as opposed to a structural one. Ironically, this underlying conception of injury is shared by both those advocating for greater privacy protections and those arguing in favor of the conflicting interests to privacy.


A behavior fundamentally at odds with the role and authority we have given our government is wrong, even when no one can be shown to have been harmed by it.

It's not just the government (2, Insightful)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818645)

The government outsources everything now. They (or one of the companies they hire) could collect up all of your email and web surfing logs and send it to credit agencies, insurance companies, even your employer.

What if you emailed your friend that you had a crummy day at work, and the next day, your employer waves a copy of it in your face and says "you're fired".

What if you surfed around looking for alternatives to your current insurance, and your carrier decides to drop you because you're not a loyal customer?

They could do it all in the name of 'maximizing shareholder value'.

I have something to hide (-1, Troll)

Ranger (1783) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818651)

A salami.

Lame article ... (4, Insightful)

Syncerus (213609) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Privacy Tools and Weapons? (1)

Saint (12232) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818715)

What I would find interesting would be a study of those who responded with the "nothing to hide" argument as compared with those who say there is no longer a need for personal weapons such as guns.

I believe that privacy tools are very comparable to personal weapons in some respects. Others apparently think so as well -> http://www.google.com/search?q=second+amendment+en cryption+tools&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozi lla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a [google.com] .

I just wonder how many people who are deeply opposed to personal gun ownership are strong privacy advocates. I am also curious how many people who are gun owners, yet fit into the "nothing to hide" category.

Privacy is dead, deal with it... (1)

jjh37997 (456473) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818719)

"Privacy is dead, deal with it," Sun MicroSystems CEO Scott McNealy

However, "If any citizen can read the billionaire's tax return or the politician's bank statement, if no thug - or policeman - can ever be sure his actions are unobserved, if no government agency or corporate boardroom is safe from whistle-blowers, we'll have something precious to help make up for lost privacy: freedom," author David Brin.
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