If you believe that you have “nothing to hide” from the prying eyes of the NSA, you shouldn’t mind letting a stranger rifle through your bank statements, emails, and photos — right?
Nearly every week, I hear someone shrug off privacy issues with a claim that they’re not worried because they have “nothing to hide” from the government.
Let’s put a cork in it, once and for all.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, love him or hate him, offered attendees at his October TED talk a bulletproof argument (as far as I can tell) against the “nothing to hide” argument.
“Over the last 16 months, as I’ve debated this issue around the world, every single time somebody has said to me, ‘I don’t really worry about invasions of privacy because I don’t have anything to hide,’ I always say the same thing to them.
I get out a pen. I write down my email address. I say, ‘Here’s my email address. What I want you to do when you get home is email me the passwords to all of your email accounts, not just the nice, respectable work one in your name, but all of them, because I want to be able to just troll through what it is you’re doing online, read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting. After all, if you’re not a bad person, if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.’
Not a single person has taken me up on that offer. I check that email account religiously all the time. It’s a very desolate place.”
Throwing out that poor attempt of an excuse that you have “nothing to hide” just doesn’t work. It never has, and it never will. It’s lazy, naive, and borderline idiotic. Everyone has something to hide.
Even if it’s just your password.
Do you remember that time you had that sexy webcam session with your then-partner? So does the NSA. How about that drunken email you sent to your work colleague, which you apologized for and was swept under the rug, and was forgotten about the next day? The NSA remembers. What about that phone call you made last year, which you don’t remember the full details of, but you told that person something about work you really shouldn’t have? It’s fine because the NSA does.
Everyone has something they are embarrassed, ashamed, or frightened of. Everyone has secrets.
But even if you think you are entirely immune from government surveillance because you’re protected by the Fourth Amendment, which restricts unwarranted searches and seizures?
You may not believe you’ve broken any laws, but with a vast profile in your name residing on a server somewhere, how can you possibly know? Could you be unknowingly aware of a person connected with crime, and be subject to searches without your knowledge?
And if you really, truly, whole-heartedly believe that you don’t have anything to hide? You clearly won’t mind someone rifling through your emails, your photos, your documents, your bank statements, and even your household trash — not to mention your usernames and passwords.