One of the first things that seems to come up when privacy is discussed, be it online or off, is that if you don’t have anything to hide you shouldn’t care what is known or can be discovered about you. This argument frustrates me immensely.
It seems to assume at least two things:
- The party seeking information about you has pure motives and intentions
- You do absolutely nothing that could ever be construed as suspicious/controversial by anyone
Do You Really Have Nothing To Hide?
It shouldn’t be necessary to explain that not all parties who want to know things about you have in mind your long life, vibrantly good health, as well as a very large pot of gold and are just trying to track you down to hand it all over. Surprising as it may be, this is not the case. In fact information on you may be gathered for any number of reasons be they sinister or not.
- To suggest products or services you may find useful\desirable
- For social or political embarrassment
- To implicate you in a crime either based on truth or fabrications
- To gain power/influence over you
- For identification of popular opinion, preferences or other trends
- To effect a burglary or other crime with the lowest risk:gain ratio for the criminal
- For more effective censorship or repression
Naturally all this is done by human beings (perhaps assisted by androids and computer technology) but not always in exactly the same way.
The intrusion could come from:
- Individuals (Stalkers, private investigators, neighbors, curious folks etc.)
- Groups (Governments, corporations, committees or activists…)
Your situation may be different than mine and the potential privacy intruders will differ. A friend I knew was worried about people from his past finding him on Facebook.
I also know of a family who was tracked by private investigators at the instigation of the kid’s grandparents who disapproved of the parents choices. If I remember correctly they picked a lifestyle that differed from the grandparent’s. This made them unfit to raise the children from the grandparent’s point of view.
My grandparents are generally okay with my life so private investigators don’t seem to be a problem. I’m not particularly worried about stalkers either since I’m not famous and haven’t dated, and subsequently broken up with, any crazy people. However, anti-statist that I am, government surveillance and data collection is often on my mind.
If It Looks Suspicious It Is Suspicious
I’ve mentioned before how I enjoy paying with cash for everyday things (and unusual items as well) unless I have a compelling reason to do otherwise. It’s a sort of miniature victory for independence and personal liberty. If you tend to see it that way also, take note: according to the Dept. of Homeland Security you are a suspicious individual (around the 3:35 mark in the clip).
I bring this up because in a world where simply paying with cash is considered a reason to investigate someone we can count on our Internet activity being analyzed and our mobile devices searched not just by hackers and border agents but by our Internet providers and the local cops. We could take the “I’ve got nothing to hide so who cares” approach.
Alternately we can recognize that we all have things we can and should wish to hide. They aren’t criminal or even controversial. They’re simply personal and shouldn’t have to be revealed to anyone who you don’t wish to be in-the-know. Not even the state -which is simply a group that styles itself at least one level above all others.
Those things will vary depending on whom we’re hiding them from but to pretend that we don’t care at all is like saying you wouldn’t mind living in a glass house. Maybe that person you know who is always sharing Too Much Information or perhaps a nudist woudn’t mind a figurative or literal glass house but most people would mind very much indeed.
Do you really want a laptop thief going through your contact list?
Your bank account information gathered from a dumpster?
Your phone consultation with your lawyer monitored by those involved in your prosecution?
Do you really think those Google searches about violent groups in Somalia will look just as much like a university research project to an FBI counter-terrorism agent as they did to your professor?
Identical pieces of information don’t always mean the same thing to all people. Perspective makes a difference and to say that it doesn’t matter who is watching because you’re only involved in innocent, harmless activity is to ignore that difference.
“If it looks suspicious it is suspicious.” The Dept. of Homeland Security wants you to be a moronic automaton and a snitch.
Don’t do it.
If it looks suspicious it looks suspicious.
Be prepared to think critically and guard your privacy from whomever would intrude on it without your permission. Please avoid DHS educated androids as well when at all possible.
Note: Thanks to Corbett Barr at ThinkTraffic.net for influencing this post with his advice on writing what what you really think. Workin’ on it.