Last week in privacy law we discussed Daniel J. Solove’s excellent article “Why Privacy Matters Even If You Have ‘Nothing to Hide.’” Solove addresses the tension between government security-related policies and practices and privacy rights, a tension many resolve by saying “I don’t care if the government listens to my calls/reads my email/attaches a GPS to my car because I have done nothing wrong, have nothing to be ashamed of, and therefor have nothing to hide.” Such a position equates privacy with secrecy, and nothing more. Solove’s point is that privacy
is too complex a concept to be reduced to a singular essence. It is a plurality of different things that do not share any one element but nevertheless bear a resemblance to one another. For example, privacy can be invaded by the disclosure of your deepest secrets. It might also be invaded if you’re watched by a peeping Tom, even if no secrets are ever revealed. With the disclosure of secrets, the harm is that your concealed information is spread to others. With the peeping Tom, the harm is that you’re being watched. You’d probably find that creepy regardless of whether the peeper finds out anything sensitive or discloses any information to others.
Solove goes on to discuss other privacy-related harms that can occur from government information-gathering programs and concludes that we should conceive of privacy as concept that embraces many interests, not secrecy alone.
The article by Cindy Gallop titled “Should we do away with privacy?” presents the “I’ve got nothing to hide perspective” so extremely that on first reading I thought it a parody:
If you identify exactly who you are and what you stand for, what you believe in, what you value, and if you then only ever behave, act and communicate in a way that is true to you, then you never have to worry about where anybody comes across you or what you’re found doing. By definition you are never caught doing anything to be ashamed of.
What Gallop fails to acknowledge is that humans have an innate right to choose whether, how, and not to share personal information with others. (Gallop is an advertising consultant. Quelle surprise.) After suggesting how to implement this concept Gallop says
Now in a world of transparency, I am essentially unblackmail-able. I’m unblackmail-able because I have a secondary venture called Make Love Not Porn, and I launched it at the TED conference [organisation that promotes ideas] in 2009.
Once you have stood up on the stage at TED and announced that you have sex with younger men, no-one can ever shame or embarrass you ever again. So I live my life completely in the open, and that is an enormously stress free and relaxing way to be.
And by the way I realise that I am quite an extreme example of this, but the principles are the same for everybody.
Maybe this is a parody after all.