Nothing to hide argument

The nothing to hide argument states that government surveillance programs do not threaten privacy unless they uncover illegal activities, and that if they do uncover illegal activities, the person committing these activities does not have the right to keep them private. Hence, a person who favors this argument may state “I’ve got nothing to hide” and therefore does not express opposition to government surveillance. An individual using this argument may say that a person should not have worries about government or surveillance if he/she has “nothing to hide.”

The motto “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” has been used in the closed-circuit television program practiced in the United Kingdom

Edward Snowden: “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.” 

“When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.”

Julian Assange states: “There is no killer answer yet. Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror) has a clever response, asking people who say this to then hand him their phone unlocked and pull down their pants. My version of that is to say, ‘well, if you’re so boring then we shouldn’t be talking to you, and neither should anyone else’, but philosophically, the real answer is this: Mass surveillance is a mass structural change. When society goes bad, it’s going to take you with it, even if you are the blandest person on earth.”

Daniel J. Solove stated in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education that he opposes the argument; he stated that a government can leak information about a person and cause damage to that person, or use information about a person to deny access to services even if a person did not actually engage in wrongdoing, and that a government can cause damage to one’s personal life through making errors. Solove wrote “When engaged 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.”