Last Updated on March 25, 2022
- Privacy isn’t about hiding information; privacy is about protecting information, and everyone has information they would like to protect.
- Privacy is a fundamental right and you don’t need to prove the necessity of fundamental rights to anyone.
- Lack of privacy creates significant harms that everyone wants to avoid.
- Arguing that you don’t care about the right to 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.
- Privacy is key to freedom of thought. A watchful eye over everything we read or watch can chill one from exploring ideas outside the mainstream. Privacy is also key to protecting speaking unpopular messages. And privacy doesn’t just protect fringe activities. We may want to criticize people we know to others yet not share that criticism with the world. A person might want to explore ideas that their family or friends or colleagues dislike.
- A key component of freedom of political association is the ability to do so with privacy if one chooses. We protect privacy at the ballot because of the concern that failing to do so would chill people’s voting their true conscience.
Protection from the Misuse of Personal Information
There are many ways a person can be harmed by the revelation of sensitive personal information. Medical records, psychological tests and interviews, court records, financial records – whether from banks, credit bureaus or the IRS – welfare records, sites visited on the Internet and a variety of other sources hold many intimate details of a person’s life. The revelation of such information can leave the subjects vulnerable to many abuses.
Privacy Problems Taxonomy (source):
- Information Collection
- Information Processing
- Secondary Use
- Information Dissemination
- Breach of Confidentiality
- Increased Accessibility
- Decisional Interference
John Stuart Mill:
“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with errors.”
Nothing To Hide?
The nothing to hide argument speaks to some problems, but not to others. It represents a singular and narrow way of conceiving of privacy, and it wins by excluding consideration of the other problems often raised in government surveillance and data mining programs. When engaged with directly, the nothing to hide argument can ensnare, for it forces the debate to focus on its narrow understanding of privacy. But when confronted with the plurality of privacy problems implicated by government data collection and use beyond surveillance and disclosure, the nothing to hide argument, in the end, has nothing to say.
It Is Essential To Freedom.
Everyone needs some room to break social norms, to engage in small “permissible deviations” that help define a person’s individuality. People need to be able to think outrageous thoughts, make scandalous statements. They need to be able to behave in ways that are not dictated to them by the surrounding society. If every appearance, action, word and thought of theirs is captured by a peering entity, they lose that freedom to be themselves