Refuting the “Why should I care about privacy if I have nothing to hide” Argument
Throughout my browsing of various places on the web and interactions with people in real life as well as online, I have often come across a common reply when the topic of privacy is presented. This reply is usually communicated as “Why should I care about privacy if I have nothing to hide?” Sometimes, people say “I am not a criminal, nor do I participate in any criminal activities, track me all you like.” To me, there is no worse mentality than those of the crowd who espouse these replies. It brings to mind a quote from Edward Snowden, “Arguing that you don't care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” Never mind that there are dozens of things we do every day that are perfectly legal that we would prefer not to have other people know about.
I do understand that in most cases, the nothing-to-hide argument comes from a place of focus on the hiding aspect of privacy. Caring about privacy does not strictly mean that you have anything to hide, it's about being able to control how we present ourselves to the world. It is the right to keep things to yourself. It's about personal dignity. It's about personal agency or the feeling of being in control of our actions and the consequences they have on our lives. Privacy should be also be considered under the context of power dynamics between the individual, the state and the market. Additionally, as recent scandals have illustrated so vividly, privacy is also about the autonomy, dignity, and self-determination of people – and it's a necessary precondition for democracy. If all of the aforementioned isn't enough to persuade you, I invite you to consider the following:
Suppose you do some online searches about cancer, or diabetes, or alcoholism. Do you want that info popping up the next time you apply for health insurance or car insurance or a job even if you don't have cancer, diabetes, or an alcohol problem? It makes it easy for any company to just deny you the insurance or the job, rather than investigate or take a risk.
Suppose you're a woman with an abusive ex-husband, or a creepy ex-boyfriend? Do you want them to be able to track your location in real-time, or track you even if you move to another city? Or to know where your new job is, or who many of your friends are?
Are you really comfortable with a faceless corporation knowing what medical problems you have, who your contacts are and what you are discussing, tracking every website you visit, building up a remarkably accurate profile of who you are, what videos you watch or what topics you are interested in then selling that data to third parties?
What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you're likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd – even if you've done nothing wrong – and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn't protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.
The truth is we all segment privacy in our lives and there are a plethora of reasons for doing so. For instance, I share my social security number with my bank. That does not mean that I want to share it with you. They have a legitimate need for it. You do not. And if all of the aforesaid is still insufficient to persuade you into caring about your privacy, then I invite you to read the information at the following websites:
Signed – He Who Fights for the User