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 believes I need good answer to the following statements.

I have nothing to hide.

Nobody really is interested in me.

I don’t do anything illegal

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

Much has already been written and said about this. With this post, I want to convince you that your private data is valuable. That it is worth protecting your privacy on the Internet. Hence my CloudPirat arguments that we all have something to hide. And that’s a good thing.

(1) Privacy is a basic need

When someone says they have nothing to hide, it sounds a bit like they are trying to hide something wrong. But that is not the case. Our privacy is a prerequisite for us to be able to live in 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 constantly in danger of being corrected, judged or criticized.

The more we become aware of the algorithms and databases used to predict (even criminal) activity, the more cautious we become about what we say or do. This “submission to a norm” increasingly impairs our individual development.

There is then a fear of conformity and thoughtless repetition of the desired opinion, as well as the suppression of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression or the right of assembly.

(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. They know:

  • your interests and read and analyze your messages
  • every search query you have ever made
  • your attitude to political issues and your health restrictions

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 in a western, democratic world we are well protected by fundamental rights and laws against overreaching and perhaps totalitarian authorities or governments. 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 the views and policies of your current government. (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 increase your premium because you have smoked in the past.

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. Such data is also sold to data traders and could therefore also be acquired by your health insurance company or the police.

(5) Those who search also want to find something

You think you haven’t done anything wrong? Then you hope that an investigator or an AI will see it the same way. Edward Snowden once said the following about this…

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.

In the miniseries “What Rights Do We Have?” I explain our basic rights in the first part. In the second part you will find the current status of the surveillance laws and in the third part I plan an overview of the EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

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

PS: Thanks to Anna Shvets for the cover photo.