Saturday, 13 June 2009

If You Have Nothing to Hide You Have Nothing to Fear

I have spent an afternoon searching the web as this irritating argument is cited by many who do not understand our choices; nor the implications to themselves and their loved ones of the vicious restrictions and invasions of our privacy suggested by the Badman review.

Listed here is a series of relevant quotes and the links to the original source if you want to read more.

It would be great if any good sites not included here could be listed in the comments.

‘By saying “I have nothing to hide,” you are saying that it’s OK for the government to infringe on the rights of potentially millions of your fellow Americans, possibly ruining their lives in the process. To me, the “I have nothing to hide” argument basically equates to “I don’t care what happens, so long as it doesn’t happen to me.”’

‘This is a version of the very popular “The innocent have nothing to fear” argument, which is wheeled out whenever authorities wish to bring in new measures which increase surveillance or limit freedoms in the name of increasing security. …
The argument is a particular species of false dichotomy. You are presented with a simple either/or choice. Either you’re guilty, and so should be exposed; or you are innocent, in which case nothing will be exposed, and so you have nothing to worry about. Either way, you have no legitimate reason to be concerned. Like all false dichotomies, the problem is that there is at least one more option than the two offered in the either/or choice.
In the case of “The innocent have nothing to fear” argument, the key point is usually that our objections have nothing to do with our guilt or innocence, but with our right to privacy. We don’t want to be scrutinised at every turn because constant scrutiny is an intrusion into our privacy. Consider, for example, that what we get up to in our bedrooms may be nothing to be ashamed of, but most of us still wouldn’t want others to stand around and watch. Potential voyeurs would not have a very strong case if they simply said, “Why not let us look? Doing something you shouldn’t be?” “The innocent have nothing to fear” is therefore usually an example of a red herring: the fact that we are not doing anything wrong is beside the point.’

‘This particular myth remains plausible only when it is repeated as a mantra and considered at the most shallow level, or not considered at all.
Less than one lifetime ago, that is to say within the memory of people still alive, certain governments incarcerated groups of their citizens and, in some cases, systematically destroyed them. The nations in which these evils occurred were not at the bottom of the civilized scale but, on the contrary, the nations concerned were considered highly developed, civilized, organized, industrialized, and were not altogether unlike Britain.’

‘If you have nothing to hide, why do you need privacy? This question, famously attributed to the McCarthy era, has gained currency again in this era of terrorism and national security. The question implies that privacy is a form of dishonesty, that the things people want to hide are the very things others should know about.’

‘The assumption behind the "if you have nothing to hide" claim is that the authorities will always be benign, will always reliably identify and interfere with genuinely bad people only, will never find themselves engaging in "mission creep" with more and more uses to put their new powers and capabilities to, will not redefine crimes, and even various behaviours or views now regarded as acceptable, to extend the range of things for which people can be placed under suspicion - and so considerably on.
It is all or some of naive, lazy and irresponsible not to be maximally vigilant regarding civil liberties and human rights, because it is a datum that the liberties of individuals are inconvenient for all states and their security services, and in dispensations where there are few if any restraints (think the Soviet Union, or even today's Russia - and China) it is liberty which quickly and comprehensively suffers.’

‘"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" is a myth, a fallacy, a trojan horse wheeled out by those who can't justify their surveillance schemes, databases and privacy invasions. It is an argument that insults intelligent individuals and disregards the reality of building and operating an IT system, a business or even a government. If ever you hear someone at a dinner party crank out this old chestnut, grab your coat, make your apologies, run fast and run far. And as William has said before, I wouldn't want to be stuck at a dinner party next to someone who has nothing to hide - imagine how dull that would be.’

‘I contend, like Dewey, that the value of protecting the individual is a social one. Society involves a great deal of friction, and we are constantly clashing with each other. Part of what makes a society a good place in which to live is the extent to which it allows people freedom from the intrusiveness of others. A society without privacy protection would be suffocating, and it might not be a place in which most would want to live. When protecting individual rights, we as a society decide to hold back in order to receive the benefits of creating the kinds of free zones for individuals to flourish.’

‘John Catt has not been convicted of anything and on a trip to London, the pensioner found himself pulled over by an anti-terror unit.
"I was threatened under the Terrorist Act. I had to answer every question they put to me, and if there were any questions I would refuse to answer, I would be arrested. I thought to myself, what kind of world are we living in?"Sussex police would not talk about the case.’


Anonymous said...

This is fantastic work, love. Exceptional. That phrase seems to be cropping up all over, like a rash, and you are supplying a great antiseptic lotion for it.


Carlotta said...

Thank you for this. I agree with Diane. In the last week alone, I have heard of three examples of mission creep, of distortion of the evidence, of unreasonable action being taken against families on the basis of professional prejudice, and almost willful desire to misunderstand what children are saying to them.

Conversations with children are all too easy to miscontrue or even misquote. I tried to explain the consequences of the review to a 10 year old autonomously ed child yesterday who is bright, knowledgable and accomplished in many fields. She said something along the lines of "well, we just have fun, we don't actually learn anything!" by which she meant of course that she rarely sits down with a work book and does anything that looks like structured work...but you see how dreadfully wrong that could all go.

Maire said...

Thanks Diane we are doing our best, shouldn't really be on the computer today, there has been a total neglect of all other elements of my life lately but dealing with this is truly fundemental to all else i feel.

Carlotta so true, i keep trying to remember the many stories i have read lately in blogs and online articles, I never dreamt it would be so urgent to file them. I remember one where some young man was arrested just for having a camera in his possession near a police officer, he was incarcerated and his possessions consficated. He was of course released but some months later had not got his camera etc back.

I have been shocked and surprised at the many stories like that i have read in the last year.

I must try and find them, but on another day, I think i deserve some sunshine today.

Jax said...

that story about the young man with the camera sounds like one I saw in a Panorama or some such episode, maybe with Henry Porter? He's a good one to talk about civil liberties, wonder if we could get him onside? Off to see if I can find an email address...

Heidi said...

For dinner parties, there's the shorter version: "If those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear, why are you wearing trousers?"

Maire said...

Lol, I like that it is the bit like to voyeur quote.

Working Dad said...

The story of the young man with the camera may be this one - Scared me when I read it.


Maire said...

Thanks working dad, just left a comment for him.

Maire said...

Carlotta wouldn't it be wonderful if kids could come out of school thinking that they did no work but were learning as much.

It is quite the reverse for many

Maire said...

more on the subject here.

Anonymous said...

Love it Maire, thanks for sharing.

Maire said...

You are very welcome.

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