Privacy: Are You Sure You *REALLY* Have Nothing To Hide?

During the past few years it has become more common to have phone records, purchase records, and other logged activities datamined and reviewed by various organizations, government agencies and law enforcement groups. One highly publicized example was when AT&T provided access to their customers’ phone records and Internet communications to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Many organizations, along with millions of individual folks, were outraged that their private information was being sifted through and judged. However, many groups and millions of other folks simply shrugged their shoulders, saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong, so I have nothing to hide! Let them look!”
Over the years I’ve heard this said many times by a large number of technology professionals, as well as other folks in completely different professions, “I’ve got nothing to hide. They can look at whatever they want!”
However, privacy is not about having nothing to hide. It is about the right to keep non-public communications and activities private.
A new paper by Daniel J. Solove was recently published , “”I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy
This truly provides a wonderful discussion for this important issue of privacy. It would definitely be a good article for those folks to read who think they have nothing to hide. Or, perhaps you could discuss the issues from the article with those folks.
The point the article makes very well, in a number of ways, is that it is a matter of personal privacy. As one passage puts it,

“‚ÄúIf you have nothing to hide, then that quite literally means you are willing to let me photograph you naked? And I get full rights to that photograph – so I can show it to your neighbors?‚Äù28 Canadian privacy expert David Flaherty expresses a similar idea when he argues: There is no sentient being in the Western world who has little or no regard for his or her personal privacy; those who would attempt such claims cannot withstand even a few minutes‚Äô questioning about intimate aspects of their lives without capitulating to the intrusiveness of certain subject matters.29”

This is a very interesting read, with quite a bit of information from Solove’s own blog, including others’ comments in response to his postings, in addition to the expected, but very readable and understandable, legal discussion.
There is also a great privacy taxonomy Solove had previously proposed included in the paper. It helps to make the concept of privacy something more than just a vague, subjective term. It is something organizations could use to help build privacy and security into their procedures, operations, networks and IT applications.

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