Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I've Got Nothing To Hide!

One of the most familiar retorts to the notion of personal privacy is the “nothing to hide” argument. The basic notion is that if you have something that you want to keep private (i.e. something to hide) there must be some suspicious motive for your position. It must be illegal, or immoral, or so inappropriate that somehow the rest of us have a right to know about it.

Many jurisdictions have privacy legislation in place to protect health information. But these statutes invariably exempt actions by governments where homeland security, public health or other law enforcement activities are involved. In our post 9/11 world (or 7/7 world in the UK), governments all around the globe use the “nothing to hide” argument to justify intrusions into our day-to-day lives. While the population might acknowledge that some intrusions are warranted to fight terrorism, we would do well to be skeptical about the motives of government bureaucrats and over-zealous law enforcement officials who may be tempted to use the information for purposes other than what was intended; a phenomenon known as function creep. Click here for a good example of function creep.

Privacy consultant Patrick Lo passed on an excellent paper written by Daniel Solove of George Washington University titled ‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy that explores and debunks this argument.

Highly recommended. Download and read.

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