My name is Joe Basirico, I help people build secure software. Learn more »

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'

6/29/2012 - Posted by joe

I just read a really well written article by Daniel J. Solove is a professor of law at George Washington University who says we should stop thinking about privacy in Orwellian terms (nothing to hide), but in Kafkaesque terms (if we have enough information about you we will be able to find something, eventually).

I think this is especially pertinent in this new age of surveillance and data storage. It costs nearly nothing to store information now, especially for large corporations and governments so they have very little incentive to purge surveillance data. We may not have the technology or time to link multiple disparate pieces of information together now, but given enough time and data a computer program (or a human with enough time on their hands) could be written that would make inferences and assumptions about the nature of someones actions or intent.

The other concerning thing is that there's no way to opt-out of this surveillance, unless you want to spend the rest of your life in a cabin in Montana (even then ultra-high resolution satellite imagery and radar make surveillance possible). The data is collected without consent every time we walk on the street or drive a car (CCTV and license plate surveillance makes it possible to track the path of an individual from home to work, software can identify patterns and deviations from patterns and notify anybody needed automatically when somebody passes a threshold.)

I didn't really mean to go off on a pro-privacy, conspiracy-nut rant, but it's something that's been on my mind for a while and I'm not entirely sure how to fix it. Education and awareness are certainly key components, but it seems like so many people don't care or allow themselves to be driven by fear that it's difficult to see a solution sometimes.

Read the article Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide' here