I’m hosting a podcast conversation in a few weeks with a small panel on the topic of privacy. Our goal is to interrogate a common refrain; a statement that is often repeated and reinforced across society: “I have nothing to hide. I am not doing anything wrong. Why should I be so concerned about privacy?”
We want to deconstruct the “But-I’m-not-doing-anything-wrong” line of reasoning from the ground up. What does this argument miss? Where does it fall apart? What does it unconsciously assume?
Ahead of our chat, I’m crowdsourcing more perspectives. I’m super curious about this: when you hear a friend or relative say something along the lines of, “If someone is not doing anything wrong, what do they have to hide?” how do you respond?
I will put together a synthesis and compilation of input. Here are a few initial thoughts to get the ball rolling:
‘I’m not doing anything wrong’ assumes a statistic definition of what is wrong, or at least what is punishable. What is ‘right’ under one regime can get you arrested and tortured under another. (P.S. As an individual, you have no control over potential regime changes down the road.) Privacy is, to some extent, future-proofing.
Human trust and intimacy depends on privacy: we define the depth of our relationships in large part by what we share with whom, and what they, in turn, entrust to us. The proposition that “Where there are no secrets, there are no lies,” entails that where there are no secrets, there are also no relationships.
As ‘The Girl’ (played by Amanda Seyfried) in Anon says: “It’s not that I have something to hide. I have nothing I want you to see.”
Are your health records, Facebook browsing history, banking and credit statements, Amazon shopping cart, and list of all past Google searches equally important pieces of data to you? What if one variable, say, your health records, could be predicted by another, like your Google search history?
Over on Micro.blog, Robert shared a thought experiment highlighting the distinction between privacy and secrecy: why do you bother to close the bathroom door? “We all know what you’re doing in there — why not just leave the door open? Why so secretive? What are you hiding?” The choice to do your biological business behind a locked door is precisely that, a choice: “Privacy is about retaining control over the choice of when, whether, and to whom, you release information about yourself.” Privacy on the toilet has nothing to do with toileting ‘rightly’ or ‘wrongly’ — it is about exercising your right to disclose (or not disclose) something about yourself, on your terms.
Who really ‘wins’ — whose power is reinforced? — if everyone is convinced — or tricked to believe — that the complete transparency of everything is the requirement for security for everyone? The notion that ‘secrecy = guilt’ is an interesting, widely adopted cultural motif… whose interests could it possibly serve?
Your turn! How do you respond to the person who says, “I’m not doing anything wrong, so why should I care about privacy?”