You Don't Need "Anything to Hide"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back in 2006, security expert Bruce Schneier wrote an excellent post on the value of privacy. Here's an excerpt:

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, "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." Watch someone long enough, and you'll find something to arrest -- or just blackmail -- with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies -- whoever they happen to be at the time.
Schneier is addressing one of the more common "retorts" against people who value their privacy, "I have nothing to hide." The above quote puts in concrete terms something I noted some time ago about comunications being taken out of context. (And maleveloent intent isn't even necessary for this to be a problem.)

When I hear, "I have nothing to hide," the best I can conclude is that the speaker hasn't given much thought to the value of privacy or the problem of widespread surveillance. However, I can often infer from the context that I am hearing a little dictator, or someone indulging in what I call the "dictator fantasy", or just a plain old bully who is trying to belittle my concerns.

-- CAV

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Doug Urbanski, hosting for Rush Limbaugh today made a similar point that for all Obama's talk about security, one cannot have any type of security or freedom without a private domain to call your own.

IIRC Reason magazine had an article titled "Stasi, Eat Your Heart Out." The point of the article being that that byword of intrusive gov't surveillance, the East German Stasi, had less penetration into the lives of its subjects than does the US Gov't into our lives.

And it is historically ironic when the German Justice Minister has to take Obama to task for violating the privacy of US citizens. But then, the Germans have seen, up close and personal, just where such abuses end. You'd think that someone with an advanced college degree could see it too. Except for the fact that he is willfully blind.

c. andrew