1. 72

Good morning,

Today I’ve got into one-of-many arguments about widely considered privacy and trading it for convenience and comfort (it didn’t even got into praising “safety” as a tradeoff). In most cases I talk about this with IT oriented people or at least those with some regular “computer literacy”, sometimes even better than average. And that’s fine, we usually get to the sane conclusions or someone gets convinced. I’m not trying to “evangelize” everyone or take this semi-religiously in “rms” style of course, but most “technical” (I really don’t like that term though, in 2020 we are all “technical”) people get the “big picture” of current state of individuals’ privacy as soon as they realize the scale and methods - some have their own views on that and understand the risks, others start to be more careful. Not a huge business though, no drama involved.

However, this time I’ve got into such sort of discussion into someone who doesn’t care at all. And while being quite young (that might be a problem on its own, too) he (or she) doesn’t use the computer at all, mostly the smartphone and probably some gaming console. Education and “background” isn’t even remotely related to any sort of technical domain at all. And, somehow, this person tries to defend the position of comfort no matter what. When being told the famous “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to say”, the person says it’s completely okay and he didn’t even wanted to say anything. Then goes to actually praising and accepting all data harvesting, exploitation, collection and analysis, which completely goes beyond my head and I almost took it as trolling, but sadly it was true.

Back to the topic, I can accept the fact we can often get a completely different “philosophical” standpoint to various parts of our lives, but on the other side this is something quite important, as it affects us all no matter which educational, political, social and economic position we take. But most of “arguments for privacy” being raised on various Internet discussions are thrown in assumption that other person is related to the technology even a little bit beyond the pure “consumer” attitude.

So, in short. How do you talk about privacy and digital safety with plain, regular, non-technical people who admit they have nothing to say, so they have nothing to hide?

it’s not only about this particular example which I put here only to let you imagine the small part of the problem. I want to hear about your own experiences and opinions about rising awareness and adjusting it to “regular” people, beyond the usual “just ignore them”.

    1. 40

      I like how Edward Snowden phrases it in Permanent Record.

      I don’t have a quote easily available. But he basically says that you may think you have nothing to hide. But other folks may, and for good reasons (journalists, whistleblowers, minorities).
      By saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide, you’re making it dangerous for those folks, who will therefore seem suspicious.
      Then, caring about privacy becomes an act of solidarity.

      I’ve found that argument to work quite well with folks who aren’t in tech.

      1. 17

        Lifted from Wikipedia:

        “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

        “When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.”

        I usually argue that if they have nothing to hide, then of course they would allow me to view their banking info, medical information, all their IMs, and allow me to setup cameras in all rooms in their home. This typically leads to “Oh no, I won’t allow YOU to see that, but it’s okay for the government, because they wouldn’t do anything bad to me.”

        And for that part of the argument, it’s taking a case of a government oppressing some group of people, and then either people gets it or gets bored of the discussion.

        1. 4

          I usually argue that if they have nothing to hide, then of course they would allow me to view their banking info, medical information, all their IMs, and allow me to setup cameras in all rooms in their home.

          I actually found cases when they even did not care about that and replied with screenshots of texts they’ve just sent.

          1. 7

            They still have the choice of which screenshots to send, in this scenario. That’s a lot different than having complete access where you’d be able to choose which you thought were important.

            1. 6

              Fair point. In my experience many won’t think that far or have the imagination. Maybe it could be simplified by asking them how much the earn a month or a year. If they refuse to answer they basically showed that they have something to hide.

          2. 4

            There’s a nice movie called “Perfect strangers” which plays exactly on this topic. People gather for dinner and decide to read all sms aloud and answer all calls on speakerphone.

      2. 6

        Also people fleeing spousal or parental abuse!

        Also even if someone doesn’t care about their privacy, they do still need integrity for their communications, i.e. they would probably prefer that randos with a copy of FireSheep can’t just steal access to their FaceSpacePinstagram account or mess with the content of the pages they’re reading or inject malware into the software they are downloading. The off the shelf solutions to integrity of data in transit also solve confidentiality of data in transit.

      3. 4

        While it might work on majority of adult people with common sense, I can’t imagine how teens or students who prefer comfort and “not caring” over anything would even take that as an argument at all. They’ll most likely say “it’s their own problem” or “i am not a journalist, I don’t care about them”. It’s quite sad they lack these bits of empathy, but it’s a bit larger topic on it’s own and I don’t want to derail this one too much. But it’s even more terrifying if you know they’re the future and with that attitude everything might get even worse than it is already, in privacy domain at least.

        1. 3

          Quite frankly, I don’t appreciate the ageism employed here.

        2. 1

          Thankfully, young people learn, just like we did when we were young and stupid. The presence of stupidity is no reason to be terrified. Vigilant, perhaps. Active, involved, definitely. But not terrified. There’s hope for them yet.

          1. 4

            When I was 15 I was one of those “I have nothing to hide” people. Then I was 16 and started dating, and suddenly I didn’t want my parents reading my messages. So, there’s that argument too.

            But yeah, don’t give up on youth just because they’re too immature to understand everything right now. They will grow and learn.

    2. 29

      I point them to the Holocaust in the Netherlands. The Netherlands had one of the hardest-hit populations of Jews in all of Europe. There were several contributing factors, but one of them was the well-organized trove of data the government collected on all Dutch citizens including information on religion, residence, work, and ancestry. That trove of data was helpful for the smooth functioning of the Dutch government and originally employed for the good of its people. However it was also a very great help to those who later sought to oppress and exterminate.

      Data is powerful. And it changes hands easily. Even if you were giving data to good people who have nothing but good intentions, you still have to be careful with it. But most of us are giving data away to people who are making money off of us. Just as you wouldn’t give your house key to a stranger who wants to exploit you for money, so you also shouldn’t give your data to someone who wants to exploit you for money.

      1. 6

        I just wanted to make the same point here but I see you’ve already covered it.

        I come from a part of Europe that has had totalitarian regimes ruling over it in the past. Even though I haven’t lived during those regimes (missed it by a couple of years) I could definitely feel the consequences, physical or mental for a lot of people.

        You could easily be detained or even killed depending on the severity of the charge. The things that could serve as proofs were telephone calls, anything you ever publicly wrote, even the private correspondence by mail. Anything you ever said in public, sometimes only the accusation of saying something would be enough.

        Nowadays all of that seems trivial, the presence of the surveillance is orders of magnitude higher today than at any point in history. Imagine going to jail because you sent a joke to your friend on Whatsapp about a political figure in your country. Heck, any information that’s not perfectly protected by end to end encryption may as well be considered public. See what hackers do with stolen credit cards today, they use them for some time, then they dump them for everybody else to use.

      2. 5

        That is a good point. Often it is not even the own government that acts malicious. There have been recent discussion in Germany to install cameras with face detection in all airports and train stations. Our current government might not misuse these cameras. However, we should always assume the other governments hack into the cameras and use the material to track dissidents.

    3. 25

      I actually discussed this with a friend because we were frustrated when we tried to persuade others to use eg Signal. We came up with a three tried argument list.

      You might not care but others do.

      This is basically the argument made by the two articles, Snowden et al. While one might not have anything to hide. We have to protect others that care for us such as NGOs and journalist. I’m from Germany and folks here still can remember the last to dictatorships. So it’s probably more convincing here.

      You don’t know if you have anything to hide.

      A lot of people don’t really know what they have to hide until it hits them. That was covered in the article below as well. My example is often WhatsApp. Facebook might encrypt the messages but the value is in the meta data. Who wrote to whom when from where. It is very scary what these data points can reveal. I once saw a talk by someone who started to track himself. He found that he could predict his movement with just around two weeks worth of data. So what would your opponent say if the next credit card, apartment or job is refused based on some meta data on them?

      Your future self might care a lot.

      This is the most convincing to me and usually got others as well. While we might not have anything to hide now we might care quite a bit in the future. Any data is saved for basically forever. Companies and states might not see value in the data they have now but they are quite eager to find use for it. Facebook is in active talks with banks to base decisions on data. It takes not much imagination to see health care companies evaluate our purchasing behaviour of the last decades to decide on our premiums.

      This is a sloppy write down. I know the frustration.

      1. 6

        You might not care but others do.

        One thing I heard that really opened my eyes to this was the idea that, in order for a restrictive law to be changed, it must be broken. The easiest examples are prohibition laws - with alcohol prohibition in the 1930s US, to more contemporary prohibition laws involving cannabis. Millions of people smoke weed erryday, be it for recreational or medical purposes, and many state governments have caught on that maybe it’s not as bad of a thing as they originally thought.

        Another example that might fit would be in countries where homosexuality is illegal. If authorities snoop texts and phone calls in order to determine homosexuals in their country, they will forever be oppressed by the whims of whoever is in charge that day.

        1. 1

          smoke weed erryday

          I see what you did there ;)

      2. 5

        Donald Trump has been a strong example for “Your future self might care a lot.” (in the past I’ve heard “what if the nazis got into power again!” to which the response is “like that would ever happen”). You may trust some governments, but Donald Trump is president now. He has a console in front of him, he can search everyone’s emails, everything. What do you think he could do with it? Did you ever say anything bad about him he might not want you to repeat? Do you think he could use it to target people he doesn’t like and prevent them fighting him? If only those people had been using encryption to protect themselves.

        1. 1

          Can we please not have politically-charged content here?

          1. 4

            Eh, I’m personally fine with it as long as it’s stated civilly and makes a relevant, substantive, & debatable point. Once someone starts throwing stones, then we can start talking about shutting people down.

          2. 1

            I’d just like to state, as I didn’t make this clear enough despite it being my intention as the message, I didn’t mean to express an opinion on politics. Mostly because I don’t have one! I don’t follow political news, or Donald’s latest controversial news story or whatever. It was intended to be entirely a specific aspect of the government angle that historically I’ve failed to express. Due to a lot of dislike for Donald, it has recently gone down much better.

            I apologize if it came across any other way, I also don’t want that kind of content here. Hopefully my point wasn’t too diluted by my failure to properly include that in my comment.

      3. 3

        There is one more you missed:

        Massive data stores mean massive data breaches. This costs the whole society, and sometimes in the billions. There was great blog posted that I believe I saw here on lobste.rs that used the analogy of stockpiling oily rags to extract tiny amounts of oil from and the dangers that poses. I can’t find it right now though.

        tl;dr: Collecting too much data in one place can be dangerous, it is not about you personally.

      4. 3

        A good example that highlights the last two categories is:

        Are you okay with being denied insurance, or having increased premiums because some machine learning algorithm drew some incorrect inference based on your private data?

      5. 1

        The simplest way to communicate “You might not care but others do” for Signal specifically is: whenever people ask for contact info, explain why they should make a Signal if they want to contact you, and refuse to use alternatives.

        If they insist on not using Signal to contact you, they’re putting their convenience over your privacy, which is what we call a lost cause.

    4. 19

      Cory Doctorow:

      You should care about privacy because privacy isn’t secrecy. I know what you do in the toilet, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to close the door when you go in the stall.

    5. 12

      Personal story: back when I was 19 or so, I was at a University where the head of the IT department didn’t like me. As part of that, he ordered his minions to go through everything I’d done - including restoring backups to go through things that happened in the past. What they found wasn’t much, but it was assembled into a superficially damning report.

      What I learned from this is the investigator is not neutrally trying to uncover facts. If somebody is investigating you, they have a goal, and that goal is to impugn you. It doesn’t matter if you did nothing wrong; it matters whether there’s anything that can be cherry-picked, taken out of context, and misrepresented as something that might be wrong. The more material an investigator has, the more such things they can find.

      Have you ever wondered why political campaigns like to dig up old photos of an opponent standing next to $shady_character? Since they’re public figures, these people are in hundreds or thousands of photos per day over careers spanning decades, so the amount of potential material is huge. The old photo is presented without context as to how it came to be; maybe $shady_character wasn’t even known to be shady at the time and the person standing next to them had no way to know. They might be standing next to Mother Teresa the next day, but that won’t be the picture that’s presented to undermine them.

      What’s sad is, as far as I can tell, the “I have nothing to hide” group are the ones most prone to being influenced by this type of behavior.

      1. 13

        This is along the lines of Cardinal Richelieu,

        “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

    6. 9

      Instead of “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”, it should be “if you don’t have a valid reason, you shouldn’t be looking”.

      Instead of “we need weak crypto to see what pedos are doing to keep children safe” it should be “we need strong crypto to keep children safe from pedos”.

      Let me put a tape recorder in your bedroom while you sleep, I bet I could find someone to pay me for that. That’s creepy, but not far off from surveillance capitalism.

      There’s my privacy rants.

      1. 1

        Instead of “we need weak crypto to see what pedos are doing to keep children safe” it should be “we need strong crypto to keep children safe from pedos”.

        From a practical standpoint, how does strong cryptography keep children from being abused?

        (btw i think the ‘think of the children’ excuse for backdooring crypto is, well, stupid. I’m just playing a little devil’s advocate here)

    7. 8

      Show them that they actually do have something to hide. Take them on a Socratic journey to get them to a position where they defensively refuse to talk candidly about some part of their personal life. Then, when they refuse to talk about it, explain how they are hiding, and build their empathy for others.

      1. 10

        This can backfire, since taking people on such a journey may not get to the point where they found something to hide or they may expose more than you wanted to hear. And if you do get them to that point, you will probably have lost most goodwill at that point in the conversation. From a theoretical point of view, I like this idea, but I don’t think it factors in how little patience some people have with nerds.

        1. 2

          Indeed, my use of this approach has never resulted in a changed mind. Spend your conversation on different topics.

    8. 8

      Other answers go into “other people may have something to hide”, I want to go into a different angle, namely going into what they want to have the the right to keep to themselves.

      Talking to someone who has nothing to hide, you can say: Which things do you think you should decide whether are private or not? Where’s the boundary? Would you accept losing a right to privacy because I don’t care — for example, would you give up the right to privacy about sex because some/many other people post nude selfies or more? Which things do you think you should be permitted to keep to yourself, even if you don’t actually care about keeping them to yourself?

      That is, you turn privacy into a right that they care to have, even if they may not care to exercise it, and try to make them describe what the right to privacy spans, in their opinion.

      EDIT: Rereading, I think I’m saying: You can ask them to describe the right to privacy they want to have, the zone of privacy they want to have, instead of letting them describe examples of privacy they don’t want to exercise.

      1. 4

        I liked that. It’s like talking about the right of free speech. Even if I don’t have anything to say I still think it should be protected. Same for the freedom of movement. No one really cares about it until it’s taken away.

    9. 8

      I spooked my co-workers by telling them that the information that tracks them might just be approximate information. GPS is not accurate to your exact location. It could look like you were spending a lot of time next door with the guy who made a bunch of pipe bombs. The data doesn’t reflect who you are, it reflects what sensors were able to detect.

      Besides, who’s to say that it will be the government that uses your data in intrusive ways. It turns out that mobile providers were selling location data to third parties. The capabilities exist and may leak out into other parts of the world.


      1. 3

        Side note about gps: i found out that even with the “GPS” turned off on Android, maps still know my location.

        I want to change to LineageOS without gapps, but by doing that i lose the superb camera that comes with it.

        This is an example of trading privacy for comfort. Not exactly comfort because the camera is something i paid for, but it’s similar.

        1. 2

          It might be through the cell network tracking your location via towers. They always check which tower you are closest to in order to give you the best coverage. Don’t know if this is higher resolution than GPS. I’m not exactly an expert on this topic.

          1. 2

            It could be, but on my previous phone i was using LineageOS with micro gapps. The GPS would work poorly if at all when turned off, maps couldn’t find my location that easily. Now it’s always correct.

    10. 6

      How do you talk about privacy and digital safety with plain, regular, non-technical people who admit they have nothing to say, so they have nothing to hide?

      You keep using the word “talk” but you’re being very dishonest in doing so. I think it’s clear from everything else you said that you don’t want to talk to them, you want to debate with them. Probably with the ultimate goal of convincing them to come around to your viewpoint. You want them to care (at least a little) about something you obviously care deeply about. There is a big difference between this, and merely engaging in a conversation with someone.

      I think it’s great that you care about and advocate privacy, I care about privacy too and have been known to go to rather unusual lengths to protect mine. But the bottom line is that you can’t make other people care about the same things you do. In trying, you waste your time, you waste their time, and you stand a good chance of setting them against your cause if you annoy them sufficiently with your missionary tactics.

      It’s quite likely that the person you tried to engage with really doesn’t care about his own privacy. That’s a bit sad, but it’s just the way it is. People care about different things. There are a great many things that people have told me I should care about on a daily basis, and most of them are probably not wrong. But the reality of life is such that each of us has only a limited number of fucks to give, even though there is an infinite set of things in this world to give a fuck about.

      The best thing to do is drop it and let the other person go about his life. Often, bringing up the topic and then letting it go is literally the best and only thing you can do. I’m guessing that this is someone close to you (a family member or close friend) or it wouldn’t have bothered you this much. If this is someone you care about and want a good relationship with, be there for him but don’t try to make your societal concerns his societal concerns or one day you will look back and notice that the bridge between you two has been reduced to a smoldering ruin. You might not know why at that point, but the realization will eventually dawn. Ask me how I know.

      1. 3

        There’s nothing wrong with debating, but it is true that too much can be very alienating.

        “You can’t make everyone understand/agree” is a hard lesson to learn. I’m still learning it. But it is important to learn.

    11. 6

      I liked what Mikko Hyppönen, the CRO of F-Secure said: “please let me know if you have nothing to hide, that way I know I can’t trust you with my secrets”. We all have secrets, both our own, and those entrusted to us by our peers or clients, especially if you’re a teacher, police officer, doctor, lawyer, or a priest.

      We have business ideas we can’t yet patent, we all do humiliating things when we think we’re not being watched, we have political opinions that may governments and extremist groups would like to see us hang for, we have violated unnecessary laws and laws we didn’t know were illegal, we’ve all done unethical yet legal things we regret for the rest our our lives. Many people do ethically things that are illegal (think e.g. sexual minorities).

      These people who say they have nothing to hide, are mostly just trying to cope. They’re solving the privacy problems they can, intuitively, without thinking. They lock toilets, close curtains, whisper to their friends and protect their phone’s screen on public transport from a single stranger. They delete their browser history or use incognito mode, they select strong passwords and protect their credit card PIN.

      But when the surveillance becomes invisible, people stop caring, because it’s too much congnitive effort to track where data they collect of us, goes. So people resort to humor, they joke about ending up on a list. It doesn’t help the pessimistic attitude is fed both by people affected by the surveillance (who’ve become depressed), as well as sock puppets (who try to manage spread of strong encryption and privacy tools).

      Offering people secure tools for communication and browsing helps them a lot. Signal and Tor are some of the best tools we have. Offering them to people is the best way to help them. If the people react negatively to switching to safe alternatives, the best way to deal with them is unfortunately self-censorship. I.e. if you can only reach them via FB messenger, don’t say stuff you don’t want FB/FVEY to know. It also helps to get to know one’s peers a bit better before making the switch. Once the conversation gets more deep, you can bring up the subject of switching to more private platform.

      However, as the old Indian saying goes, you can’t wake up someone who’s pretending to be sleep. Don’t try to force other people to change, but try to realize these people are not willing to be very intimate part of your life, and if they are yet they refuse to switch, it might be time to take a step back.

    12. 5

      “Give me your password” (?)

      1. 2

        They will do, as I found way too often…

        1. 2

          This is inconvenient, I never planned so far

        2. 2

          Well you might as well post all their personal information on a public website. Maybe they really do have nothing to hide.

      1. 1

        I was expecting more “personal” experience with particular cases rather than a copy-paste list of arguments, which I could simply duckduckgo out.

        On the other side, I’ve noticed most of these responses, especially those related to politics or so called “state” are thrown there from US people PoVs, which don’t apply overseas :)

        edit: Some of these also mentions “conspiracy”, “criminal acts” (as what attacks privacy), “total control” and so on. While some of these might be true, I usually prefer to avoid wording like that to not get rejected from advance with “tinfoil hat” label. Which sometimes also happens if you even start talking about anything which differs a bit from mainstream attitude to “privacy”, but these edge cases shouldn’t be taken seriously.

        1. 1

          I’m not from the US but the UK, and I’d say it’s equally as relevant. If you’re from a five, nine, or fourteen eyes country you should consider them relevant.

    13. 3

      Maybe show them this video from Philosophy Tube? The whole thing isn’t about the “nothing to hide” argument, but it does touch on it.

    14. 3

      I have used Snowden’s argument (referred to in this comment: https://lobste.rs/s/6yrndd/how_do_you_talk_i_have_nothing_hide_people#c_0la4ee ), however this is sometimes ineffective when the person is not politically interested in “solidarity” or resistance against the oppression.

      For the more individualistic people, I’ve switched to using “saying that you do not care about privacy because you have nothing to hide, is like saying you don’t care about advertising because you have nothing to buy”. One of the core issue with privacy, that affects everyone is that privacy-invading services are built to coerce and manipulate opinion on a large scale. To some, this is acceptable when dealing about mundane stuff (what you will buy for your week groceries), but I’ve yet to encounter someone who thought it was okay when going into the political / social realm. Recent examples were pretty clear that the end-game here is not just advertising, but also vote manipulation and political destabilization of democracies.

      When I’m saying that is like “saying that you do not care about advertising because you have nothing to buy”, it’s not that it is the same as ads (for better or worse), because many are not at all opposed to seeing ads. It’s more about the few people saying that they are not themselves impacted by advertising. It affects everyone, even those that are aware of its effect. This is overt manipulation. The issue with privacy is that it gives amunition to people that are trying to do exactly the same as advertising, but with other subjects, and even if you believe that it won’t affect you, everyone can fall prey to disinformation.

    15. 3

      To people that have nothing to hide I ask them to live stream from their toilet. Then suddenly they have something to protect. And the discussion begins.

      Bear in mind, I do not engage in such discussions with random people on the Net. Only people that I know.

    16. 3

      Lots of good stuff in here already (and I’ll update my talking points!) but a slightly different approach I sometimes use is that people communicating privately with me expect that I am the only person they are talking to:

      It’s not only your privacy you are protecting but the privacy of others.

    17. 3

      Tom Scott, an Internet Personality who resonates a lot with me, made a video about the British government wanting to backdoor WhatsApp. I’ve used talking points from this video in conversations with non-technical people on topics ranging from end-to-end encryption, forward secrecy, backdooring, and, yes, the “nothing to hide” argument.

      And yes, you watching this, you probably have nothing to hide and nothing to fear from the current government in your country. But laws and governments change […] In 50 years, you might be part of a country where eating meat has been outlawed, and the Government will want to come after you for tracking down the illegal, uh, bacon trading ring that your friends are a part of. “Nothing to hide” only works if those in power share the values of you and everyeone you know, entirely and always will.

    18. 2

      This is a difficult conversation for me also, but sometimes I break it down to a simple “You may have nothing to hide, but a lot to protect.”

      I think some of this is just people’s fear of confronting unknown or complicated things. They’d rather be apathetic than engaged.

    19. 2

      This is a great illustration of why strong privacy laws are required everywhere:


    20. 2

      I don’t really have the power to hide anything from certain adversaries. Also I have nothing to hide from them or rather they have no incentive to come after me.

      In the past I thought I had something to hide and that motivated me to try to find out how, but at this point it’s a best effort approach..

      My argument goes like this:

      Privacy is a non-issue, you can’t have it. Symmetry is an issue; inequality, wealth distribution, incentives, opportunity .. these things matter.

      The reason is adaptability. We have an existential threat looming over us. Our ability to adapt to the situation and overcome this threat is a consequence of our organizational capacity. Information technology is our only hope of managing the scale of the problem and no matter how disinterested you are this is fact.

      Throughout history monopolies will find it easier to suppress innovation than out-innovating everyone else. It is evident that this causes decay in the spirit and principles of the organization, eventually leading to it’s downfall. However the process slows down progress, something we cannot afford when racing extinction.

      Free software is symmetric and it is foundational. One day we may have free hardware, secure supply chains and yes, privacy but the focus is survival and free software is the means to that end.

    21. 1

      Daniel Solove (privacy law expert) has a great article-turned-book on this, ”‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy” – it’s worth reading the whole thing (~28 pages), but he outlines the core of the problem as: we mostly start with a bad definition of privacy, and a bad understanding of what harms may arise from breaches of privacy.

      Once you start unpacking those, there’s more meat for people to get their hooks in:

      The deeper problem with the nothing to hide argument is that it myopically views privacy as a form of concealment or secrecy. But understanding privacy as a plurality of related problems demonstrates that concealment of bad things is just one among many problems caused by government programs such as the NSA surveillance and data mining.

    22. 1

      Slavery is fine, I’d love to work outdoors.

    23. 1

      I’m often having a similar conversation, and have the same problem as you.

      Their points usually are:

      • Acceptance of data harvesting for the convenience it provides
      • No company cares about you at an individual level

      Generally, the conversation is exploring ‘why should I care about privacy’. I haven’t been able to convince them of my own points. The only privacy related argument I feel I have argued well is the importance of cryptography. Previously they felt it mostly benefits the bad guys.

    24. 1

      I, generally, explain how without privacy you’re also giving up your rights of disclosure. If you have privacy you have the choice of what information to share with whom. Once you give up that information you’re also allowing them to choose what information they find important and who to share it with. Essentially any information you allow them to have you should be comfortable with it being public.

    25. 1

      Since a lot of people mention passwords. I think today this is a lot easier to argue with than it was before. Passwords used to be more abstract, because accounts existed more isolated.

      I think the willingness of unlocking the phone and handing it over might be a lot less than a decade or so ago.

    26. 1

      Ask for their credit card numbers. Ask for their passwords. Ask for the path their children take to school. Ask if they have a really good opinion of a particular car maker. Then ask if they woudl like the dealer to know that when they walk in to buy one.

    27. 1

      If they have nothing to hide, then surely they won’t mind sharing their SSN with you…

    28. 1

      I don’t - at least not about privacy and security.

    29. 1

      The argument kind of makes sense if surveillance only is used to catch the bad guys - not that it’s right, but you could wrap your brain around it.

      What’s really happening though, is that surveillance is used to hypnotize us all. To nudge us in all kinds of directions in a much more effective way than before - to brainwash us.

    30. 1

      I find the best approach is to ask questions. At worst it will make them think. At best it might make them reconsider their position. It has to be open questions, not loaded ones.

      If you want somebody to truly change their opinion it has to come from within. As soon as they feel judged or that you are pushing an agenda onto them there is no conversation anymore. I don’t know if it applies here but “nothing to hide” is also a way to end the conversation they are not interested in participating in.

      The best part about asking questions is that you might also learn something yourself. Or gain some more understanding on where they are coming from.

    31. 1

      The problem is not really “I have nothing to hide” sentiments: accurately determining who would care about a piece of information, how much they would care, and how that impacts you is a necessary part of opsec. Certain people can get away with leaving a lot more in the open without targeted privacy invasion (ex., it wasn’t safe for Michael Jackson to go to the grocery store but going outside probably isn’t an opsec problem for anybody in this thread), & at some point you do need to make a comfort tradeoff. Certain kinds of mass surveillance can’t be effectively circumvented without becoming a ‘weirdo’ in ways that negatively impact your life, as well: you can’t really be safe from networked surveillance cameras in some cities, since false positives are a much bigger problem than true positives anyhow; blocking ads & trackers in effective ways will prevent some of the most popular sites on the web from working at all. You can claim that eventually somebody’s bound to turn something harmless you did into blackmail material, but that’s not really true – folks very occasionally get something relatively harmless taken out of context, and occasionally it’s more than an annoyance, but it’s not the kind of risk most people should be sacrificing much to avoid.

      The bigger problem is the sentiment of “you should have nothing to hide” – i.e., the normative idea that anybody who gets targeted deserves it. I don’t think most people come to believe in this idea through, like, reasoning. It’s just implicit in the way we’re trained to talk about the everyday allocation of blame & resources. If somebody’s framing this subject as whether or not they should care about their own privacy, they’re going to have a hard time shifting to think about other people’s. You need to shift that subject (if they won’t admit that there are people who have secrets that, if revealed, will result in ramifications they don’t deserve, then they are a hopeless case), & then you tell them that information about their behavior can be used to figure out information about their friends, even if their friends are a lot more careful.

      A third factor here is, again, false positives. The kind of privacy leakage that happens on a mass scale is statistical. If it works 60% of the time on a tiny non-random sample, somebody will fudge the data to claim that it works 80% of the time and then sell it to somebody else who will use it to make claims about a broad group as though those claims were true 100% of the time, and those claims will be fed into something else. You don’t even need to be represented in the system to be misidentified and have to deal with the ramifications. None of the inferences need to be right. So long as people have confidence in these systems, lots of people will suffer, more or less at random. This is something that folks who don’t work with analytics in any capacity usually don’t understand, even if they’re otherwise technical.

    32. 1

      Are you sure that this teenager is being entirely honest with you when they claim they have nothing to hide? I definitely remember giving evasive and sometimes deliberately misleading answers about my political positions when, as a teenager, certain adults I knew were trying to ask me leading questions because they wanted to have fun arguing a political point.

    33. 0

      I see two problems here:

      • you’re wrong and they’re right,
      • climate change.

      One problem with this is that they’re partially right, and you know it!

      If we all shared our data, people would learn that hiding, lying doesn’t make sense. We’d end up living in a much more truthful world. The keyword here is all, though. Make this something personal for this person. “Okay, give me all your profile password. I will pass it to the classroom bully/shitty coworker. But you will not get their password back!” - because that is the problem. If we all went fully transparent, it would be great, but the problem, it’s only the people with nothing to hide which are part of the movement. Those that do have dirty secrets, they will try to get your info, but keep theirs, for their own advantage.

      The second problem, climate change. We generally all[1] know climate’s shitty. Even teens agree with the fact. But it’s distant and nobody cares.

      “It’s bad for the journalists” is all fine, but I don’t want to be bothered, it “doesn’t affect me”. We wanna make the world better, but we all drive cars. We know nicotine kills, but hey what’s a few cigarettes a day. Our brain doesn’t work long-term.

      So again, make it personal. First, agree with the person - at least with thei part of their argument that is correct. Then point out the flaws.

      1. 1

        I do not think so. Everyone being open about everything doesn’t protect against discrimination for things like religion, sexuality, (mental) diseases, political parties, thinking differently on controversial topics.

        Example: If society learns you are an atheist, believing you should be stoned for it, you being open about meaning no harm doesn’t necessarily change that.

        If people learn you have a gene that is often found in murderers or simply underachieving people or having (a high risk of) cancer you will still be treated differently.

        It also does not protect against situations where the other person still cannot know the why. If you look up information of the topics made above an observer still does not know why and might be able to use that against you.

        Also a more subjective take: I do think it strongly inhibits development both on a personal and a society level, because it creates social pressure to conform (see panopticon). This causes stagnation. With that extreme ideas such as democracy, abolishing slavery, the whole enlightenment era, etc. might not have come to be. But since this is a “what would have happened if” question I know this is not a strong argument.

    34. 0

      Great, here’s a piece of paper. Can you write down your email password for me here, please?

      ^^ Not mine… I can’t remember where I found this as the proposed response, but I knew it was perfect when I saw it :)