Friday, December 04, 2015

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear: a short response

Ruth Coustick-Deal at the Open Rights Group has done a really useful blogpost on responding to the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" mantra.

Frankly, every journalist worthy of the name should blast this seductive, toxic little soundbite and all its derivatives into discredited oblivion, immediately and every time a talking head tries to use it to rig a discussion on surveillance or other privacy issues.

Expose it for what it is. Laugh at it, if that works.

Don't accept the demonstrably false premise that privacy is exclusively sought or needed by evil people wanting to hide nefarious deeds and intentions. It is not.

Don't accept the demonstrably false premise that destroying privacy will solve the complex socio-technical-economic-environmental-justice-immigration-terrorism-[choose your issue] problem/mess du jour. It has not and will not.

By all means, list the collection of types of people for whom privacy is not only about dignity and humanity but about risk to life and limb.

By all means quote Snowden and Schneier, Applebaum, Greenwald and others, most especially Daniel Solove. Solove's Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security is, by a street, the best book-length argument, exclusively devoted to debunking the vicious, sleazy, lazy, ignorant, sophistic but powerful debating trick that is the 'nothing to hide' meme.

But start by saying you do not and cannot accept the false assertion that privacy is only about bad people hiding bad things.

Start by saying you do not and cannot accept the false assertion that destroying privacy (or "giving up a little individual privacy for collective security", as it is often deceitfully wielded) will fix terrorism/fraud/immigration/[issue of choice].

Never, ever accept "nothing to hide..." as the basis for framing a debate.

People who use it innocently or ignorantly need to be educated about its false underpinning assumptions.

People who use it with a deliberate privacy destroying or power grabbing agenda need to be reigned in.

Privacy, individual and collective, is at the foundation of a health society.

Be wary of anybody who seeks to destroy or undermine it, brandishing the malignant 'nothing to hide' slogan, whatever their motives.