If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear

Taking Liberties is an excellent documentary about the erosion of fundamental human rights under the Blair government. In the film, a surveillance systems sales person brings out the classic “If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear”. Now one of the many things wrong with this idea is that it focuses on the person about which things are known and obfuscates the entities that are doing the knowing. “nothing to hide” assumes that you are hiding your knowledge from a single, legitimate, authority, but the truth of the matter is that with privacy you will want to hide different things from different people. The problem with the “If you’ve got nothing to hide” argument is that it makes an assumption of guilt unless you can prove yourself innocent (by having nothing to hide), while simultaneously removing from the individual the ability to decide what defines guilt and innocence. It assumes a legitimate authority while simultaneously being part of dynamic that diminishes accountability, and thus legitimacy. There’s another form of this argument “If you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve nothing to fear”, which again sounds fair enough from the perspective of an authority, but if remember the history of crimes done by those in authority we need to see it from the perspective of the individual “If they do nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear!”. Why give government powers on the presumption that we can, and always, will be able to trust them not to abuse them? The recent history of these so called anti-terror laws shows that once powers these powers are given they will be used for quite different purposes from those which were invoked to justify their introduction.

Previously here: An open letter to Omar Deghayes, Why I want a charter for terrorists and criminals

Useful: no2id, Liberty

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