Bookmark: "'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy"

Sebastian Greger


In this pre-Snowden essay from 2007 (PDF), Daniel J. Solove presents one of the most thorough attempts to disprove the “I have nothing to hide” attitude towards privacy I have encountered:

the problem with the nothing to hide argument is the underlying assumption that privacy is about hiding bad things

Solove introduces a four-fold taxonomy of privacy to illustrate just how marginal the “nothing to hide” aspect is in the broader consideration of what is privacy - a term we still today struggle to properly define and, hence, often leading to debates where two sides have a different understanding of what it is.

The author later published an entire book on the topic (which I haven’t read, but hereby add to my reading list).

Side note: reading the text, I cannot help but notice how much the privacy debate has developed in the ten years since; while back in 2007 “surveillance” seemed to mainly have been something practised by governments, in 2017 corporate surveillance has become the de-facto standard of business models in many industries, adding yet another dimension to the debate (notwithstanding the relevance of Solove’s taxonomy, which is just as valid when read with commercial rather than governmental actors in mind…)

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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