“I’ve got nothing to hide, so I have nothing to fear”
You might not have something to hide now, but that may change. Many people who felt they had nothing to hide in the United States recently decided – upon the election of Donald Trump – that perhaps they did have something to hide after all. The question you should ask yourself is one of trust – do you trust the current management of Google and all future iterations of Google? Do you trust the current government and all future governments not to misuse your information, the entire story of your life with all of your minor indiscretions, successes, failures, dreams and fears?
“I’m white, so why should I care about racism?”
You wouldn’t say that, would you? You might not have something to hide, but someone you love might. If you share your contacts with Facebook, you’re sharing their personal information. Facebook can be compelled to share this information with the authorities. This information lives forever. There’s a nastiness and a new-found enthusiasm for authoritarianism about in the world these days. More than just the people you love, you should be concerned about the implications of infringements on personal privacy for the civil rights of everyone.
“If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.”
Cardinal Richelieu* wrote that in 1641. He didn’t have access to all your emails. So ,maybe you should have something to hide. After all, nobody can accurately tell what the future may bring. If someone has access to every email and message you’ve ever written, every phone call you’ve ever made and every website you’ve ever visited there’s a very good chance they can find something you’re guilty of if that’s their intention.
“I got chills, they’re multiplyin’ / And I’m losing control”
Surveillance has become enormously cheaper and easier, primarily due to the advent of mobile phones. Law enforcement agents already abuse the powers they have. A powerful and direct effect of this widespread surveillance is a decrease in willingness among people to say what they want without considering the future implications might be. This stifles progress, change and the development of ideas. In Ireland same sex marriage was recently legalised by popular vote. Homosexuality was a crime in Ireland until 1993. If law enforcement agencies had the tools prior to decriminalisation that they do now, and a willingness to prosecute people for their sexuality then there is a chance that what was a crime then would still be a crime now. If people felt unwilling to talk openly about their sexuality because they knew their every word was being saved and could be used against them at a later date, this would almost certainly have delayed if not entirely halted any progress towards equality in this area. This chilling effect is real, and should be resisted.
* There’s no evidence Cardinal Richelieu did write this, but it’s widely attributed to him. Incorrect attribution is another problem with historical data records shorn of context. Like your emails from 2009, or those Facebook drafts you never posted.