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Monday, 3 March 2014

The “Nothing to Hide” Argument and Government Spying

This article is quoted from that one gore site.

When people started to question the government’s data mining practices, they were quickly shut down by the complacent ones who struck back with “when the government engages in surveillance, it is no threat to privacy unless you are involved in unlawful activity, in which case you have no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private.”

This type of thinking was beaten into people’s heads by the governments who used it to justify the installation of millions of CCTV cameras. The program in Britain was launched with a campaign based on the slogan declaring that: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.”

That you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide is however a ridiculous argument, as it’s based on the underlying assumption that privacy is about hiding bad things. Even if you truly have “nothing to hide’ legally, you’re still a private person with the right to the sovereignty of your individualism, personhood or autonomy. Everyone has thoughts and emotions they don’t want the society to intrude upon.

Surveillance can create chilling effects on many freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, etc. Even if people only engage in legal activities, sole knowledge that all these activities are under active surveillance can inhibit these people from engaging in them. Chilling effects can reduce the range of viewpoints expressed and the degree of freedom with which the people engage their activities.

An even more frightening concept of data mining is the fact that none of us knows how all this data is used. None of us has access to the data that’s been collected about us, nor what the system has profiled us as based on the data collected. The sole fact that the very existence of data mining was kept secret for years is telling. And even now, we are told little about how long the data will be stored, how it will be used, and what it could be used for in the future. From that standpoint, it is impossible to assess the dangers of the data being in the government’s control.

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