I’ve Got Nothing To Hide!

Along comes the person singing merrily, “I’ve got nothing to hide, I’ve got nothing to hide” not at all worried about the collection of their data and the impressively powerful algorithms it will be fed into.

Yes, and I’ve got some prime real estate on Mars I’d like to sell you. You can get a great deal on it now before NASA starts building colonies up there.

I’ve got a few problems with those who claim they “have nothing to hide”.

First, I don’t believe it’s true! Most of use have plenty to hide. We have stuff we’d rather the whole world not know about, things we’re not proud of, things we wished we’d done differently or never done at all. Just because we may have never done anything illegal does not mean “we have nothing to hide”. Of course you do, and so do I.

Second, you probably haven’t thought it all through. You never considered that using alcohol or cigarettes, for example, might be something insurance agencies could be interested in when calculating what your rates will be. Or that doing an ancestry search with your DNA could also potentially affect your insurance rates, or be used in a criminal investigation.

“Last year, police in Idaho Falls, Idaho investigating a murder obtained a warrant for the DNA of a murder suspect’s father from ancestry.com, a popular genetic history site. (In an interesting twist, the DNA actually exonerated him.)” -globalnews.ca

Your data, powered by algorithms, can even affect the price you see when buying products online.

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted how sophisticated these algorithms have become,” says Robert Dolan, a marketing professor at Harvard. “I certainly didn’t.” – The Atlantic

The same people who would freak out if I went to their mailbox and opened their mail are totally fine with big data collection that exposes every part of their lives and may impact them in ways they haven’t even imagined.

Finally, history should have taught us a thing or two about what happens when power gets consolidated and enters the wrong hands. Tyranny is a very real thing. To forget the past and think it could never happen to us is the ultimate act of denial.