Schneier: The Value of Privacy

September 16, 2013

I recently came across a link to a post from 2006 from security writer Bruce Schneier that is very relevant to the recent NSA news, and probably puts forth the best succinct argument against the first sentence of this excerpt:

"If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

Some clever answers: "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me." "Because the government gets to define what's wrong, and they keep changing the definition." "Because you might do something wrong with my information." My problem with quips like these -- as right as they are -- is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It's not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?") and "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The whole post is not very long and very much worth reading.

It seems to me that most people aren't really that concerned with the recent revelations or are fixated on the man who leaked them instead of their contents. I think though that if people really understood just how much about someone can be figured out with even basic analytics, much less huge volumes of searchable private data and what the implications of that are, they'd be much more concerned.