programming / C++ / sailing / nerd stuff
© 2010 / Mario Konrad

Tired of all those "If you have done nothing wrong, what do you have to hide?" questions. Here are some good answers. Collected from arround the internet.

So, whenever someone counters my 'right to privacy' argument with "Well, what do YOU have to hide?", I always say:

"Absolutely nothing. Just because I don't want someone knowing everything about me and my habits doesn't mean that I have anything to hide.". Then I ask, "I'd like to look through your credit card statements, FasTrack statements, telephone records, bank records, internet records, computer hard drive, your house, your dresser, and the dog house. Will you let me?"

The response has ALWAYS been "No way. Why should I?"

To which I reply, "Well, what do YOU have to hide?"

I always get an irritated look after the final line. But it proves a point: Just because someone doesn't want you snooping through their life doesn't mean that they are hiding things.

There was once a far away land called Ruritania, and in Ruritania there was a strange phenonmenon -- all the trees that grew in Ruritainia were transparent. Now, in the days when people had lived in mud huts, this had not been a problem, but now high-tech wood technology had been developed, and in the new age of wood, everyone in Ruritania found that their homes were all 100% see through. Now, until this point, no one ever thought of allowing the police to spy on someone's home, but the new technology made this tempting. This being a civilized country, however, warrants were required to use binoculars and watch someone in their home. The police, taking advantage of this, would get warrants to use binoculars and peer in to see what was going on. Occassionally, they would use binoculars without a warrant, but everyone pretended that this didn't happen.

One day, a smart man invented paint -- and if you painted your house, suddenly the police couldn't watch all your actions at will. Things would go back to the way they were in the old age -- completely private.

Indignant, the state decided to try to require that all homes have video cameras installed in every nook and cranny. "After all", they said, "with this new development crime could run rampant. Installing video cameras doesn't mean that the police get any new capability -- they are just keeping the old one."

A wise man pointed out that citizens were not obligated to make the lives of the police easy, that the police had survived all through the mud hut age without being able to watch the citizens at will, and that Ruritania was a civilized country where not everything that was expedient was permitted. For instance, in a neighboring country, it had been discovered that torture was an extremely effective way to solve crimes. Ruritania had banned this practice in spite of its expedience. Indeed, "why have warrants at all", he asked, "if we are interested only in expedience?"

A famous paint technologist, Dorothy Quisling, intervened however. She noted that people might take photographs of children masturbating should the new paint technology be widely deployed without safeguards, and the law was passed.

Soon it was discovered that some citizens would cover their mouths while speaking to each other, thus preventing the police from reading their lips through the video cameras. This had to be prevented, the police said. After all, it was preventing them from conducting their lawful surveilance. The wise man pointed out that the police had never before been allowed to listen in on people's homes, but Dorothy Quisling pointed out that people might use this new invention of covering their mouths with veils to discuss the kidnapping and mutilation of children. No one in the legislature wanted to be accused of being in favor of mutilating children, but then again, no one wanted to interfere in people's rights to wear what they liked, so a compromise was reached whereby all homes were installed with microphones in each room to accompany the video cameras. The wise man lamented few if any child mutilations had ever been solved by the old lip reading technology, but it was too late -- the microphones were installed everwhere.

However, it was discovered that this was insufficient to prevent citizens from hiding information from the authorities, because some of them would cleverly speak in languages that the police could not understand. A new law was proposed to force all citizens to speak at all times only in Ruritanian, and, for good measure, to require that they speak clearly and distinctly near the microphones. "After all", Dorothy Quisling pointed out, "they might be using the opportunity to speak in private to mask terrorist activities!" Terrorism struck terror into everyone's hearts, and they rejoiced at the brulliance of this new law.

Meanwhile, the wise man talked one evening to his friends on how all of this was making a sham of the constitution of Ruritania, of which all Ruritanians were proud. "Why", he asked, "are we obligated to sacrifice all our freedom and privacy to make the lives of the police easier? There isn't any real evidence that this makes any big dent in crime anyway! All it does is make our privacy forfeit to the state!"

However, the wise man made the mistake of saying this, as the law required, in Ruritanian, clearly and distinctly, and near a microphone. Soon, the newly formed Ruritanian Secret Police arrived and took him off, and got him to confess by torturing him. Torture was, after all, far more efficient than the old methods, and had been recently instituted to stop the recent wave of people thinking obscene thoughts about tomatoes, which Dorothy Quisling noted was one of the major problems of the new age of plenty and joy.

My response to people who say "You've got nothing to hide, what's the problem?" is this:

Well then, you'll have no objection to having the transaction register of your checking account and credit cards published daily in the newspaper, will you. Nor a record of your phone calls, incoming and outgoing. Or having all your e-mail, personal as well as work, automatically copied to your boss, co-workers and spouse. After all, you've got nothing to hide, right?

Any power given to the good cops... given to the bad cops too.

Just ask the jews. They had nothing to hide at all. And not too long afterwards they also had nowhere to hide.

I'm not Jewish, as it happens ... but those two lines ought to give anyone pause. Especially if you're in the "I've nothing to hide so I'm safe" camp.

"If I have done nothing wrong why do I not deserve the right of privacy?"

Pull down your pants.

"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

"If you haven't done anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Ever heard that one? I work in information security, so I have heard it more than my fair share. I've always hated that reasoning, because I am a little bit paranoid by nature, something which serves me very well in my profession. So my standard response to people who have asked that question near me has been "because I'm paranoid." But that doesn't usually help, since most people who would ask that question see paranoia as a bad thing to begin with. So for a long time I've been trying to come up with a valid, reasoned, and intelligent answer which shoots the holes in the flawed logic that need to be there.

And someone unknowingly provided me with just that answer today. In a conversation about hunting, somebody posted this about prey animals and hunters: "Yeah! Hunters don't kill the innocent animals - they look for the shifty-eyed ones that are probably the criminal element of their species!" but in a brilliant (and very funny) retort, someone else said: "If the're not guilty, why are they running?"

Suddenly it made sense, that nagging thing in the back of my head. The logical reason why a reasonable dose of paranoia is healthy. Because it's one thing to be afraid of the TRUTH. People who commit murder or otherwise deprive others of their Natural Rights are afraid of the TRUTH, because it is the light of TRUTH that will help bring them to justice.

But it's another thing entirely to be afraid of hunters. And all too often, the hunters are the ones proclaiming to be looking for TRUTH. But they are more concerned with removing any obstactles to finding the TRUTH, even when that means bulldozing over people's rights (the right to privacy, the right to anonymity) in their quest for it. And sadly, these people often cannot tell the difference between the appearance of TRUTH and TRUTH itself. And these, the ones who are so convinced they have found the TRUTH that they stop looking for it, are some of the worst oppressors of Natural Rights the world has ever known.

They are the hunters, and it is right and good for the prey to be afraid of the hunters, and to run away from them. Do not be fooled when a hunter says "why are you running from me if you have nothing to hide?" Because having something to hide is not the only reason to be hiding something.