I often hear people of all ages, including children, say, “It doesn’t matter that my digital information is collected because I have nothing to hide.” What bothers me most about this comment is the limited understanding that it demonstrates — a lack of knowledge about how fast the traditional walls of privacy are tumbling down and how little of it has to do with the bad things that people do.
- People who make the comment usually know little about what happens to collected digital data, most of it documenting everything we do in our daily digital lives and almost none of it destined to identify wrongdoings or help to find “bad guys.” So much data is now collected about each of us in so many different ways, that almost nothing about us cannot be found out.
Our phones document where we go, our cars move through intersections with mounted cameras that note our license plates, the grocery stores keep track of the foods we prefer, and our Internet searches document the things we want to do, what we want to purchase, and often our worries about how to solve certain problems. Our data even document our medical conditions (despite physicians and insurance companies complying obsessively with HIPPA privacy rules) as we go about checking on symptoms and prescription side effects, or merely try to learn more.
So I was pleased to discover a May 2013 article, Why Privacy Matters Even If You Have Nothing to Hide, by Daniel J. Solove, a professor of law at George Washington University. In easy-to-understand terms, Professor Solove addresses the myths associated with narrow interpretations of privacy issues.