A personal experience of the illusive ‘nothing to fear’ argument


– Good day, a small blog today on an issue that has been on my mind of late.

A few weeks ago I was drafting a poem on my laptop in my room when a friend walked in. Knowing that I did not know if I wanted to show it to him I closed the page. Of course this made him suspicious that I might be writing some erotic love story or planning a terrorist attack (genuine accusations by the way). He asked why I had closed the page so quickly and I explained that it was nothing weird just something i was writing. I did not tell him what I was writing because I wanted to see if he could handle not finding out what I had been writing and being left in the dark.

He of course persisted saying ‘If its nothing weird then surely you won’t mind me having a look’. This is what this blog is aimed at; the flawed logic behind ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide, there’s nothing to fear’‘. Simply because one does not have fears or secrets about something does not mean that the information is and should be readily available. It should not be that only secret information is kept secret. However it seems inherent in human nature that if information is kept from someone then there must be a valid reason for not sharing it. However I would contest this; I think it should be perfectly acceptable for information to be withheld purely for the reason of withholding it. In my case, I did not want to tell my friend that I was writing a poem as he would probably snigger (as of course it’s highly unfashionable to write anything creative at boarding school) and so he became infuriated that I would not tell him. I value and have the right to a private life and privacy in general and I should be able to have control over that, what and how much information i give away.

What infuriated me was his reluctance to accept that I did not need to tell him purely because the opposite would mean I was hiding something (he also believes that mass surveillance carried out by the NSA is just). This kind of logic undermines the fundamental principles of privacy as a means of keeping any information secret and is quite dangerous rhetoric to be spewing as it can break down the barriers of privacy; There is a very good example that I read online about the consequences of misinformation under the banner of ‘nothing to hide’

”Lets say the person purchased the cancer book to help support a friend who has cancer, and the wig was purchased for a Halloween costume. the information collectors would assume that the person has cancer, wrongly. The two are put together, and now a filter is formed. The person books an airplane flight to visit relatives. There happens to be a well known cancer institute nearby. Filtered through the false inference, the travel becomes additional evidence of the person having cancer. Other unrelated activities are added. This “information” is shared with an insurance company who denies the person life insurance because the computer background search indicates the person has cancer. The person has no way to know this information exists, nor anyway to correct it.”

Although this example is of mass surveillance and not of a meagre schoolboy being creative in my mind it clearly shows how dangerous it can be to assume that one can have information forcefully taken from them with personal liberty and privacy brushed to one side;  its not about having anything to hide; its about not being anyone’s business.


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