A friend said the following to me. If you’re targeting people who haven’t yet thought about their digital privacy and online security, you also need to answer the “Gretchen question.” He is referring to the “I have nothing to hide argument.” A response to the following statement:

I have nothing to hide.

And I’m not doing anything illegal.

So what’s so bad about giving out some of my data?

Much has already been written and said about this. With this website I would like to convince all people that their private data is valuable. That it pays to stand up for privacy on the Internet. So here is my 6 CloudPirate argument that we all have something to hide. And that this is okay.

(1) Privacy is a basic need

When someone says they have nothing to hide, they assume privacy is about hiding something wrong. That’s not the case. Privacy is a prerequisite for us to live with dignity and respect.

We don’t do anything wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We don’t intentionally hide anything when we go to private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private diaries, sing in the privacy of the shower, write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is simply a basic human need. (Source: The value of privacy – schneier.com)

(2) We need individuality and exchange instead of conformity

Imagine that you are being observed in all respects. Then you are in constant danger of being corrected, judged and criticized.

As we become more aware of the algorithms and databases used to predict (including criminal) activity, we become more cautious about what we say and do. Through this “submission to a norm” we are increasingly impaired in our individual development as human beings.

A conformity and thoughtless repetition of the desired opinion, as well as the suppression of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression or the right to assembly are to be feared.

(3) Your data is your life

Based on your digital habits and the data trace of your digital devices, your complete (also analogue) life can be reconstructed. Your smartphone provides companies like Google and Facebook with your whereabouts and your social contacts at all times. You know

  • your interests and read and analyze your messages.
  • every search query you’ve ever made.
  • your attitude towards political issues and your health limitations.

From all this data, complete profiles are created, not only for advertising purposes. They can be used to predict your behavior and manipulate you.

(4) Times could change

We assume that we live in a democratic world in which fundamental rights and laws protect us from an overreaching or perhaps undemocratic government. But that can change. What is right and socially acceptable today may get you into trouble tomorrow. You would have to live with the fear that your once private and innocent actions would be judged differently by new authorities.

You have nothing to hide as long as you agree 100% with your government’s views and policies. (Source: Amesty International )

Imagine that you are being watched by investigative authorities today because you took part in a demonstration in the past.

The police could classify you as a potential criminal because of your history of frequent (undetected) speeding.

Your health insurance company may assign you a worse rate because of your history of heavy smoking.

Does that sound too fantastic to you? The GPS coordinates of your smartphone are automatically transferred with almost all apps. Companies such as Google or Facebook have been studying your habits for years to harness them for advertising. This data can also be acquired by your health insurance company or the police.

(5) Those who search also want to find something

If you think you haven’t done anything wrong, you hope that the investigator examining your data feels the same way. But ..

These people are looking for criminals. You might be the most innocent person alive, but when someone programmed to recognize criminal patterns searches your data, they won’t find you – they will find a criminal. (Source: Edward Snowden )

(6) We need more freedom and less control

The more people consciously protect their privacy and regain sovereignty over their data, the easier it will be to defend our digital freedom rights in the future.

There are three threats to anyone running a smartphone, pad, PC or smart home device:

  1. For- profit companies that create profiles about us from the available data. They sell these profiles to their advertisers and/or to data vendors. For example, are you on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? Do you own an Android smartphone, do you use YouTube, Google search or do you have a private Google email address? Then you are under constant observation.

    These companies save your whereabouts at all times, know your contacts and their whereabouts, they know your interests and read and analyze your messages. They know every search you’ve ever done. They know your attitude to political issues as well as whether you cheat or have health problems. (see also metadata)

  2. State institutions , such as the Federal Police, the Federal Criminal Police Office, the state agencies responsible for the protection of the constitution, but also the Federal Intelligence Service have set up extensive digital surveillance systems with the argument of fighting crime. Encryption of communication and good IT security standards make their work difficult.

  3. Cyber criminals gain access to your online identity, your payment information, to enrich themselves. The unauthorized encryption of your data with subsequent blackmail is also a realistic scenario.

Sources, tips and links for further reading

Bruce Schneier, The Value of Privacy , 03/23/2022

Amnesty International, 7 reasons why ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ is the wrong response to mass surveillance , 23.03.2022

DigitalCourage eV , Modern Myth – Nothing to Hide , 03/23/2022

PS: Thanks to Anna Shvets for the cover photo.