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Nothing to Hide Argument

One of the most common attitudes of those unconcerned about government surveillance or privacy invasions is “I’ve got nothing to hide.” I was talking the issue over one day with a few colleagues in my field, and we all agreed that thus far, those emphasizing the value of privacy had not been able to articulate an answer to the “nothing to hide” argument that would really register with people in the general public. In a thoughtful essay in Wired (cross posted at his blog), Bruce Schneier seeks to develop a response to this argument:

The most common retort against privacy advocates — by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures — is this line: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

Some clever answers: “If I’m not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.” “Because the government gets to define what’s wrong, and they keep changing the definition.” “Because you might do something wrong with my information.” My problem with quips like these — as right as they are — is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

As a pragmatist, I’m generally unconvinced by inherent rights talk. But Schneier goes on to discuss a reason for restricting government surveillance that I do agree with — ensuring that government power is appropriately checked, monitored, and limited from potential abuse.

Another argument is that if you look hard enough at someone’s life, in the words of playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, “a crime can always be found.” With the infinite tangle of criminal laws in this country, Durrenmatt’s line might belong in a work of non-fiction rather than fiction. But this response gets back to Schneier’s objection that we shouldn’t focus on privacy as protection to hide wrongdoing.


One response that I find particularly compelling is that there is a value in not having to explain and justify oneself, something that might become necessary when the government is trolling through personal data. Things that look odd might spark some speculation or negative inferences, and a person might feel the need to explain the context and background. Should people always have to be prepared to justify themselves and explain their behavior? How will one’s data trail appear to government officials judging it at a distance? What’s worse, people might never even get the opportunity to explain.

But still, the person who says “I have nothing to hide” might not be concerned about her data being misinterpreted or in having to justify herself.

Are there other good responses to the “I have nothing to hide” argument? I’m curious if anyone can articulate a compelling response that will have widespread appeal.

Comments

  1. Mike

    WOW

    I can not even believe this is an argument.

    Scare scare Monger Monger is obviously working if we have people that will just throw away there constitutional rights which our forfathers fought so hard to earn for us. Anyone who says I have nothing to hide as an excuse for what is happening with data collection and warentless wiretaps should be ashamed. Your just afraid, and the fear has tainted your basic common sence.

  2. Mike

    Also

    If your so willing to give up your rights perhaps you should pack up your stuff and move to China where big brother is always watching. Perhaps then you would gain some insight in why these rights to privacy were put in the constitution in the first place

  3. maybe in order to reach the “average joe” guy maybe just as target marketing does you may have to tweak the words a bit and hit home where they will and may have felt it.

    all this privacy boils down to following the constitution. if we would have followed the constitution we could have avoided many things that the “average joe” can feel right now and thats his pocket… are you with me? may i explain… its simple, our forefathers fought damn hard to give each of us the liberties we have. Oh yes… and even to the freedom to not even do a damn thing about our freedom or care about how it will affect our friends or families. why do these clowns have the right to not care, vote, study history, understand our constitution, or even educate ones self? because our forefathers believed that every person should have their privacy to be stupid if they so choose.

    … Now, how or where does this affect the “average joe” pockets? every privacy infringing act the Government does affects the “average Joe” not just in their phone call, email, financial, medical, organization joining, and group affiliation… It hits their pockets in TAXES every time the Government Grows another program out of its ass to support these constitution infringing acts it calls domestic spying program, patriot act… etc. etc. it is not the wicked, but the weak that allow this Government encroachment to happen. Its the people that live in denial, its the people that say “if it dont affect me i dont care” wake up people do you think you would be living in this country with the right of apathy (or stupidity) today if our founding fathers said the same damn thing? Our constitution does not give the Government the right to to infringe on our privacy, its in our constitution that those people died to give us our rights. So saying that they can come kick in your door with writs of assistance because you do not have anything to hide is like spitting on the very reason our country fought for a r3volution.

    So I say to you “average joe” the next time you pay $5 at the ga$ pump or wonder why your beer is taxed so much you can blame BIG Government for raising taxes to support these expensive spy and data mining programs. I believe in America not Government. “he who gives up even a little liberty for security, is stupid” -Rich

  4. I didn’t bother reading all the comments but I’m sure somebody would have said this already. The issue for me is not about hiding anything, but more of keeping my business mine alone.

  5. irrrroncare!

    I agree with GregW

    and irrroncare!

    I’m happy I don’t live in countries that are still fighting for freedom –those countries are probably living better because they don’t worry about primitive topics concerned with the Self constantly…

  6. Spovednik

    Well, I just ask back: “Can i watch you poop?”

    1. JvD – what is it that you think DOES happen? What is the mechanism that does not include human involvement by which the data mining program translates information into action? Computers cannot accomplish real-world results without some sort of interface, and it’s hard to see how that interface can be anything other than wetware.

      Just posting here could be perceived as anti-government actions

      That very much depends what you post, doesn’t it?

      Ricky – that is all well and good, but it turns on the understanding of what constitutes a “light and transient” matter vs. “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” King George raised taxes, imposed tarrifs, attempted to strangle commerce with the Boston Port Act, put soldiers into people’s homes with the Quartering Act, and abolished elections to the legislative organs with the Massachusetts Government Act. George Bush has … what? I must have missed the part where Bush raised taxes and imposed tarifs (rather than cutting them and expanding free trade), shut down the ports, abolished Congress, and stationed a United States Marine in my living room. If you think different, I submit that the speech you think you saw Bush make was actually in Star Wars: Episode III, not on C-SPAN. I really do wonder if liberals think their Bush fixation is healthy for their party and their reputation with America at large.

    2. Paul Gowder

      (Warning: shamelessly political comment follows. My apologies.)

      Lets see, shall we?

      (a)

      “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

      Bush hasn’t needed to veto things, since his party controls Congress, but he’s used the veto as an axe to secure the legislation he wants, to the detriment of the public good. example.

      (incidentally, an appropriate google search also revealed this. What the… ?? Didn’t Clinton v. New York put the line-item veto to rest?)

      “He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.”

      Medical marijuana? Assisted suicide?

      “He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.”

      Ok, he hasn’t done that one yet.

      “He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”

      Fair enough, he hasn’t done that one either.

      “He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.”

      Not yet.

      “He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.”

      Not yet. Although he has done more than his share of recess appointments.

      “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”

      Well, he’s been less insane on the immigration issue than his confederates in Congress, but together, the picture still isn’t pretty.

      “He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.”

      Not applicable, since we already had judiciary powers. (Although Orin Hatch was probably guilty of this one for obstructing Clinton’s judicial appointees.)

      “He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.”

      No, but he has made justice for guantanamo detainees dependent on his Will alone. Close enough.

      “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

      Department of Homeland Security, anyone?

      “He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.”

      Well, the legislature has consented to that, so it’s not strictly applicable, but he has used military-level institutions like the NSA to spy on us without the consent of our legislatures.

      “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”

      See above re: guantanamo, NSA, etc. Guilty as charged.

      “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:”

      Guantanamo again. Also Padilla, etc.

      “For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:”

      Not guilty.

      “For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:”

      Not technically guilty, but the high-ups responsible for kidnapping, torture and murder abroad aren’t being punished, and I think that’s close enough.

      “For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:”

      Not guilty.

      “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:”

      Not guilty.

      “For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:”

      Guilty. Padilla, Guantanamo, etc.

      “For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:”

      Not guilty as to American citizens. Guilty as to foreigners. Extraordinary rendition.

      “For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:”

      Arguably guilty (Iraq wasn’t free before, but it may well be worse now), but then again, every president since the start of the cold war has been guilty of this.

      “For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:”

      Like the 4th amendment? Guilty.

      “For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”

      Hung jury. Some jurors voted for guilt on the strength of the secret TSA screening rules and other “security” regulations.

      “He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.”

      About as guilty as George III was.

      “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”

      Ditto. Plus: Katrina.

      “He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”

      Well, absent the foreign mercenaries, Bush is about as Guilty as George III of being the subject of that inflamed rhetoric.

      “He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.”

      Not guilty.

      “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

      That one depends on how you feel about the Christian Coalition and the red-staters.

    3. JDW

      Recently 26.5 million “ordinary people” (veterans and active-duty military personnel) had their names and social security numbers fall into the hands of criminals because one guy at one government office broke one rule and took a laptop home, where it was stolen. (1)

      No matter what happens to the government employee who allowed it to happen, or to any of his superiors, all those veterans are now at greatly increased risk of identity theft.

      This is not a theory or an abstract what-if scenario, and it didn’t just happen to a creepy Senator that nobody likes. It happened to everyday people, their husbands and wives, their parents, and their sons and daughters.

      This proves that it is not necessary for the government to be evil and abusive for real harm to occur. Nor is it necessary to single out the government. The more data the government (or anyone else) has, the greater the consequences will be when something eventually goes wrong.

      Caring about your privacy is common sense. Every time information about you winds up in some big database, the proven-real risk of some criminal obtaining and using that information goes up.

      The even bigger problem with a huge NSA database containing information on Americans getting compromised is that if (when) it happens, we won’t hear about it on CNN.

      And if you don’t think the NSA’s list of people you call can be used against you by someone who obtained it, go look up the phishing scams and stalking cases involving Internet chain letters where the scammer/stalker saw that “Alice” forwarded the email to “Bob” and then contacts “Alice” and begins their move by telling her that “Bob sent me.”

      On top of that, your phone data tells when you’re likely to be home (or not home), and gives people a list of places to start looking, should they decide they’d like to find you without letting you know.

      Such incidents are not isolated. Nor are they unlikely; they are inevitable. The report “TECHNOLOGIES THAT CAN PROTECT PRIVACY AS

      INFORMATION IS SHARED TO COMBAT TERRORISM” issued by the Center for Democracy and Technology (2) identifies five documented types of real problems, and they provide concrete examples of how each affects “ordinary people:”

      1) Unintentional mistake – mistaken identity

      2) Unintentional mistake – faulty inference

      3) Intentional abuse

      4) Security Breach (the report predates the example above)

      5) Mission Creep

      So before you say “I don’t care if the government has this information” make sure you’ve thought through all the places where that information will someday wind up.

      Footnotes:

      (1) http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/05/25/vets.26millionids.ap/index.html

      (2) http://www.cdt.org/security/usapatriot/20040526technologies.pdf

    4. Paul,

      Out of the 27 accusations from the Declaration you list, by your own admission, about twenty don’t apply or haven’t happened. But even of the balance, you’re getting pretty tenuous. Citing Katrina in support of the claim that Bush “has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people”? That’s not “shamelessly political comment”, it’s just stupid). Citing medical marijuana and assisted suicide as things Bush has forbidden the states (I’ll let you get away with suggesting that the Governors are the president’s governors, since I’m pushed for time) to do? When and how did Bush do that? It’s incredibly tenuous to suggest that Guantanamo etc. ” render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power”, and “For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments”? Reaching.

      The ones I’ll give you:

      “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” (I’m a small government conservative, so I’m with you on this).

      (And I think, by the way, liberals want to be pretty careful before complaining about obstructing nominees, since we will see the mother of all obstruction when the next liberal member of the Supreme Court retires.)

      If we’re going to start hurling accusations from the Declaration of Independence, perhaps you’d like to defend the Supreme Court’s proclivity for using foreign law in the light of the Declaration of Independence’s objection that George III had “subject[ed] us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws“?

      I’m out of time, but this was beneath you, Paul…

    5. Paul Gowder

      Simon,

      I confess, the list of declaration violations was a little pissy. But you have to agree that some of the truly egregious behavior is analagous to some of the things that were complained of in the declaration.

      As for the medical marijuana and assisted suicide things, the reason we had a Raich case was because the Bush administration chose to take a contested view of federalism and sent federal agents to raid Raich’s home (home?) and destroy his weed, notwithstanding the fact that, under state law, it was legal for him to possess and use it. It sounds like Bush forbade the government of California (the closest analogy to George III’s governors) to legalize medical marijuana.

      Similarly, John Ashcroft issued rulings that would turn the controlled substances act on Oregon doctors who prescribed ODs for assisted suicide patients, notwithstanding Oregon law’s explicitly legalizing same. Sounds like he was preventing the states from acting yet again. Fortunately for the colonists, this bit of Royal Power came out the other way in the Supreme Court, but the point remains.

    6. JEdgar

      There once was a guy who ran the FBI and had his own private information collection system which let him get the goods on a large number of people. He manipulated this information to achieve his own ends.

      While you and I have nothing to hide, lets say that 1% of the adults do have something to hide. Not something really bad, just something they would rather not have everyone know.

      Now say that, god forbid, the Democrats got back into power. We know they have no scruples – unlike the Republicans. Say they got control of this information and then used it to gently suggest that those people vote Democratic in the future. Nothing provable, no back channel, just suggestions.

      The horror – they would win every election from then on, since enough races are won by less than 1% of the vote to make a difference – including recent presidential elections.

      Good thing the Republicans are in power now. No chance of them trying anything like this.

    7. Wizzer

      Well. Think I have to agree – with everybody. But I’m suspicious. Why no posts from the 2nd to the 15th? Alot of real nasty anti-government propaganda? Hmm. Are THEY all watching me, all the time? I’m a graduate of West Point and I make pizzas. Seems like I should have everybody watching me and nobody. Does the government have the right to know how much money I make and who I make it from? Are they somehow privy through law to know what the relationship is between me and my employees or me and my customers? Is government worth it? Should I worry about interference with my business in the wide open sunshine? I let kids make pizzas for free – almost the equivalent of “free beer”. All of my questions are rhetorical. I have no (real significant) pressure and enjoy what I do very much. My liberty is compromised and I dislike all politicians and people associated with them. Now they’re probably after me big time – guess I should start another Woodstock or figure out another way that the marketers can beat the policitians. Then it’ll all be groovy & cool.

      Riz

    8. John Holmes (No, not THAT guy)

      Perhaps those concerned about misuse of access should start by looking at the false-positives that big organisations of any sort can create.

      The UK Government recently admitted that it has falsely labelled several hundred people as criminals when they are not. As one lady put it: she lost a good job over her non-existant criminal record, and the government won’t apologize.

      Now tell me that a Government agency can see what we do, make inferences about what we do, and get it right, because if they get it wrong who knows they’ve screwed up? When you find out, then who takes responsibility? When they don’t take responsibility, then who do you go to, over their heads?

      So tell me: WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS?

      John

    9. Alan

      The problem is not so much that the government is spying on us to find enemies of America. It is that the spying can be used to find enemies of the current administration.

    10. Winston Smith

      > I guess, Adam, what I was hoping for was a more > convincing argument from a bunch of lawyers. > > > These things wouldn’t convince me if I were on a > jury, especially if the government was throwing > 9/11 in my face.

      I just came across this thread and read it in its entirety. Better late then never.

      This matter is really scary, and to me has been scary since long before 9/11.

      I went to college in a American city ravaged by the effects of generations who did not value education, and then imparted that into their children and grandchildren.

      By the time I left ~ 15 years ago, there were vast swaths of the population that had been illiterate for at least 3 generations, and I am sure you can add one or 2 more to that since then.

      There were additional swaths, the “middle america” that anne describesherself as, probably, who ascribed reducing value over time to education, in particular the ability to think critically, to see other points of view, and to weigh them and make independent decisions.

      This may not be the time or place to discuss what policies have led to that or might fix it, but I think that these observations do matchup with something anne implied:

      “Middle American housewives” such as her can’t be bothered to think in abstract terms. Likely because she was never trained to do so. And life has been relatively safe and secure for about 20 years of more, so there has been no need to do anything other then “go along to get along”. to her credit, at least in she hangs around online with those otherwise inclined (but only to trol and taunt, not to learn and be challenged), but she is right – huge numbers like her can’t and won’t do think critically.

      There is political peril indeed in having so many voters uneducated and who do not see the value of changing, not for thwmselves, and not for their children, becuase they see the risk of disruption to their own life as unlikely enough to value the risk of disruption to other’s lives or to our society as a whole.

      I suspect many of us here, myself included, weere educated in a pre-9/11 era where the rallying cry against oppressive government was summed up in a book titled with another well known date: 1984 by George Orwell.

      Perhaps all of us, Anne included, would do well to buy a fresh copy ad re-read it, as critically as we can. The earlier Cold War political leitmotif was that succumbing to Soviet style politics would lead to the totalitarian state described therein.

      But, post-Reagan, that seems to be forgotten. Yet it seems to me what is posited in real life as happening in the USA (summarixed by the examples others have posted, and much more they haven’t) has a clear line from what is known today to the state described in the book.

      And it isn’t a long line. Some might say we are there already – I won’t go that far, but it looks like we are well along on the path.

      So to Anne, and your “Middle America”, if that book, and what it represented could be resurrected in your conciousness in the current context instead of the Cold War context of yore, would that help you understand the “lawyerly” arguments presented above?

      The book and its ideas were persuasive in public discourse before, so surely they should be now – we didn’t want that society then, and I don’t think even “Middle America” wants it now.

      Finally, to paraphrase: “The price of privacy is eternal vigilence”.

      Let’s hope that vigilence doesn’t come to “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” or “Don’t Tread On Me”.

    11. Jerry

      Has anyone heard of Nixon and why he resigned? Now the NSA is “openly” collecting data on us? Yes, I know it is only calls outside the states.

    12. Setu

      Returning to how to make an argument that will convince middle America about the privacy infringement that occurs due to wire tapping, perhaps instead of words, we can use cartoons, movies, films etc. For example, Walt Handelsman has a great flash animated movie here which makes the point:

      http://www.newsday.com/news/opinion/ny-wh-nsawiretapping,0,1906650.flash

    13. Reed Gelzer

      First, some background. Privacy is, at least in part, about anonymity. Why do we have the right to vote in private? It’s because a State is compelled, for its own interest, to attempt as much control as it can. Why do we have governmental power split between three branches in our Constitution? It isn’t to make the State more efficient, it’s to hobble it and make in more difficult for the State to violate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sometimes that does not work very well, like internment of Japanese citizens in WWII, the FBI and Red Squad actions against civil rights activists and anti-war activists in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s… If we give the State better tools and permission to use them, what is the countervailing ability to resist an intrusive and interventionist State?

      The difference today is the unprecedented ability of a small number of people to watch and intervene in the lives of a large number of people. The NSA is recording phone calls. In the past, it took one person listening to one phone call to figure out whether it might be a threat and start a process to do something about it. With digital voice recording and voice recognition, the data can be scanned and key words, phrases, etc. can be cued to set actions in motion directly.

      Here are some lines to try out: The danger is not the loss of privacy, it’s the loss of anonymity before the State. The line I have had some success with is “what if the Soviet Union had survived to today, and had the facility to monitor and act on every phone call, or for that matter, every conversation within range of a microphone?” If you cannot draw the curtain on anything, and the State decides that anyone uttering the word “freedom” is a security risk…

      Even our government, in times of stress and war, has done stupid things. In this brave new world of endless war, where does the justification of pre-emptive action stop? Apparently it does not stop even with your local public library.

      Other things that seem to cue people’s interests, depending on their own life experiences: Ever tried to correct errors in a credit report? A friend’s recent mortgage application turned up an error by another bank who transposed numbers in a man’s SSN so that his data is now intermixed with hers. It has consumed many hours of her time because, per the credit reporting firm, it is her responsibility to contact the sources of error and see them corrected.

      Ever try to get an error corrected in your medical record? I have and, since it is difficult to tell where copies of that record may have gone, it can be a daunting (and life-threatening) problem if, for example, you are thought allergic to a particular antibiotic commonly used in emergencies, and you are not…

      Good luck to you all and to us all. This is a very important discussion.

      RDGelzer

    14. DRCunningham

      If one uses the PUBLIC airwaves or PUBLIC Internet or PUBLIC areas to discuss personal matters or meet, how exactly is it that you expect PRIVACY?

      As to the matter of listening in on phone calls, a PRIVATE service, I totally agree with those decrying that practice. However, if there is a law that permits surveillance of calls into or out of the country, then IT’S THE LAW! If you don’t like it, act to change it.

    15. SueM

      Chiming in very late…

      Paul,

      Anne is trying to help us. Don’t berate her for speaking the truth as she knows it. Use your intellect and creativity to come up with a way to get your point across in a way that speaks to her. The validity of your arguments is a moot point if people don’t listen to them (or understand them even if they do).

      The American attention span is short, and average people are way too busy struggling through their daily lives trying to put food on their tables to have time or energy to listen much to anything that isn’t short and easy to grasp. Reducing an argument to sound bites probably goes against your very nature. But if that’s all most people are able to hear, what’s the alternative?

      Calling them dumb and wallowing in our intellectual superiority won’t do us a damn bit of good. We have our work cut out for us. May the Annes of the world keep poking us until we get it right!

    16. Murphy

      Convince you that it may happen to you. I am a relatively normal, middle class guy that has to travel on airplanes about once a month for his job. My name, a very common name, both surname and first name of Irish descent, is on the Do Not Fly list. That means I cannot go to a kiosk to get my boarding pass. I have to stand in the stupid line with the tourists that fly once a year. It costs me about an hour every time I enter an airport. So the government is taking 2 hours of my time every month with no compensation. It could happen to you. And given my name, that means a bunch of guys in Boston have the same problem. THere are about 300 people with my name in the Boston phone directory. So, yeah, this security theatre has a real cost to citizens with an incredibly small benefit to the country.

    17. Kevin

      Actions speak louder than words.

      The Geo. W. Bush administration decided that the

      NSA surveillance shouldn’t even be run past the

      (secret) FISA court. If they weren’t doing anything

      wrong, why did they choose to try to hide it?

      They don’t act by that stupid saying, they just

      want the rest of us to buy into it.

      Remember, the government are made of the people

      who brought us “plausible deniability” and about

      whom there has been the running joke, for decades,

      “I’m from Washington, and I’m here to help you”

      When people say “do as I say, not as I do” you

      KNOW it is all b*llsh*t!

      Bottom line, Joe Stalin would loved it. Why should

      anyone have to say more?

    18. SOBrien

      Government action causes inconvenience and privacy loss for A people, this prevents injury and death of B people. What is the cost trade off of A versus B? Will A people willingly allow loss of their privacy to save the lives of B people?

      This calculation is hard, that is is not a good reason to ridicule and reject it.

      “We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” JFK

    19. scientist

      Part of the problem with tracking purchases with grocery store “snitch cards” is that there are often combinations that can and WILL be looked for in future by government agencies.

      Combinations of goods that can often be purchased for innocent reasons — but which can be misused in the wrong hands — and which can trigger overly-suspicious computer programs.

      Consider for example a smoker with an ankle sprain who buys instant cold packs and lighter fluid on the same day. (or cold packs and gas in a can for the mower) Cold packs contain ammonium nitrate. Lighter fluid is as good as Diesel or Gasoline in bombmaking. \

      BUT –

      the chances are very high that the purchase was innocent.

      NOW

      Add torture or other “aggressive interrogation”

      Many false confessions

      We could fill the prisons in a week!

    20. ion josan

      Bottom Line:

      People have to realize that;Goverments of any color will spy on there people and others,for there own benefits and to shape (change)YOU,into

      there needs and illussion (whatever is).

      Everything is hiden under Law and Order and National Security.

      The same way as the communists,former or present.

      If communists,had the technology,knowhow and money,They will still be there today.

      Do not ever think,They did not have a constitution.

      They had,and better writen,than the United States have,BUT PEOPLE PAID NO ATTENTION TO IT AND THE CHECKS AND BALANCES DID NOT WORK.

    21. Mike

      Has anyone ever heard of the 4th Amendment? Apparently not, judging by some of the responses here, so I’ll help:

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      I fail to see how digital privacy invasion and the sale of personal information doesn’t violate this fundamental law. Is it not reasonable to interpret digital information as a direct analog of “papers and effects”? The argument of “why do you care if you have nothing to hide?” is the same argument that our founding fathers took issue with when drafting this amendment. Why is it so hard for us to take issue with it now? I care because my data is none of your business, period. If you think I’ve broken a law, then get a warrant, otherwise P*ss off!

    22. Matthew Graybosch

      If you have nothing to hide, then you don’t have a life.

    23. Ilya

      I am a relatively normal, middle class guy that has to travel on airplanes about once a month for his job. My name, a very common name, both surname and first name of Irish descent, is on the Do Not Fly list. That means I cannot go to a kiosk to get my boarding pass. I have to stand in the stupid line with the tourists that fly once a year. It costs me about an hour every time I enter an airport. So the government is taking 2 hours of my time every month with no compensation.

      Murphy —

      If there were no Do Not Fly list, do you think you’d get onto airplane any faster? Dream on! What would happen, is EVERYONE would have to stand in the “stupid line with the tourists,” including the priviledged minority of business travelers who now get boarding pass at the kiosk. Your gripe is that you are not in that proviledged minority, and given that you are a frequent business traveler, you should be in it. But the solution is BETTER record-keeping and identification (by retinal scans instead of names, for example), not LESS record-keeping.

      Likewise, being mistakenly flagged as a bad credit risk can be a nightmare, but what do you think banks would do if they were denied access to everyone’s credit information? Higher rates for everybody, because banks would have less information to make loan decisions on, and consequently would be taking bigger risks in providing loans. Again, the solution is better record-keeping (and more severe punishments for banks or other organizations which mess up your records), not less of it.

      Note that almost all cases of surveillance misuse fall under category of “tragedy of commons in reverse” – many people share small benefits, while few people suffer disproportionally severe consequences. Which is probably the reason most people do not mind the surveillance.

    24. Ilya

      BTW, someone complained about how dangerous it is to have mistakes in your health records, and how difficult it is to eliminate such mistakes – because many copies of said health records exist in many different locations. (Which is very true, as I found on personal experience.) The proper solution is to keep your health records with you at all times – on a implanted chip, with a backup copy some place you deem sufficently secure. Hospitals should be able to read the chip and update it as necessary, and not keep any permanent records themselves! Much less chance then of your data being stolen, and no chance of corrupted copies floating about.

      In general, what I think would go a long way to satisfy both privacy fans and security fans is a way to keep all relevant information about oneself on one’s person at all times, and to reveal only as much as one needs in a given situation. A “smart card” which the owner can not alter himself, but has control over what it displays. Need to purchase beer? Show your picture and age. Need a loan? Show credit history. Need buy a plane ticket? Show your “cleared to fly” data. You can not put fake information into the card (technology involved is closely controlled), and no one without your biometrics can read it. Science fiction at present, but not for much longer.

    25. Neureaux

      My response to the “nothing to hide” arguement:

      Wanna know ’bout me and mine,

      where I go and spend my time?

      To thee I say: “OK, Fine!

      Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”

    26. Andrew

      First, let me point out, that for THIS discussion, asking for your email is ironic.

      Second, If you have nothing to hide, then that quite literally means you are willing to let me photograph you naked? And I get full rights to that photograph – so I can show it to your neighbors?

      Because THAT is what you are saying. You DO have things you do not want people to see. So do I. Your might be your pretty body. Mine might be the fact that I am gay. And a member of the legalize marijuna political action group. And a member of the “Send the Africans back to Africa” Charity. Also, I routinely travel 56 mph in a 55 mph zone. And get drunk 1/month in my closet. And I once masturbated while looking at pictures of dead dogs. And I collect my own snot and eat it. I still wet my bed. I won’t do business with those dirty, thieving jews. And I am a card carrying member of the ACLU. And I despise children.

      All of these things are legal. Now, assuming I was not being sarcastic, do any of you think I would have a job tomorrow if my boss knew them?

      Thirdly, consider this: I have a right to privacy, not because I have things to hide, but because trust is a two way street. Think about a parent. What would you think of a father that says “My honor student has never done anything wrong. But just to be ‘sure’, I hired a private investigator to follow them around all the time, sneak into his bedroom at night and check his computer, diray, underwear draw” It takes WAY too much effort and cost for the government to actually fairly investigate everyone. So we tell them that if they want to investigate people, they must prove it to a judge that they are worth investigating.

      If the cop can’t do that, then THE COPS ARE THE SICKO PERVERTS. Just like the dad/mom that treated their honor student like a gangbanger, if the government does the same to us, THEY demonstrate that they are A) poor government, B) can’t be trusted themselves and C) have serious emotional problems.

      Fourth: The last, best argument is simple. Every test has a false positive rate as well as a false negative rate. If you test too many people, you end up convicting the innocent more than the guilty. I.E. if you have a test that 5% of the time falsely says “drug user” even if they are not, and use it on a population where only 1% of the people use drugs, than you arrest, charge and try 5 innocent people for every 1 guilty. Those innocent had nothing to hide.

    27. Mary

      What about the batterers in control? They will have easy access to the private lives and emails of the objects of their abuse! It is the polititians now stealing information for their right wing, no fly agenda that includes abuse of the most successful women by getting control of their bodies. These guys want control and money for their bank accounts. It has been shown that a man’s sexual power is equal to his bank account. Women need better training. What a snakey problem!

      There aren’t many battereres hence the denial by men and women that they exist. I posit that it began with the Nazis and fascists at the turn of the century and before… The fascists stole the riches of the Jews, do their contol freak crimes in secret, behind closed doors, ran to South America, disappeared anyone who objected got control of the Latin soul because Isabella wiped out dissent with the inquisition… People were tortured and disappeared. Ronald Reagan was in cahrge, George Bush ran the CIA… If it was not for Queen Elizabeth and her hatred for decapitation and violence, we’d all be speaking Spanish and celebrating cannabalistic rituals of the eaten Jesus. They should have taken his advice and loved one another not eaten him. They must have been pretty desperate to avoid crucifiction!

      Anyway, if you follow the history, the fascists, under the CIA of the Bushes smothered dissent, supported Pinoshit, who is a bonafied war criminal, and have been raping and pillaging, drug running and getting richer and more and more controlling. THey are outnumbered, but are encouraged by and encourage ignorance through clear channel. I have had to deal with many refugees as a teacher. And their stories are horrible. Children know more about guns than how to read or play. The latest ones from Chiapas are the worst. The power monger, sociopaths get worse with each generation of the perpetuation of conflict. They make money off of instigating conflict by selling weapons. But they cannot sel weapons if there is no conflict. They cannot make black people kill in the city without their intervention. I worked in Oakland and I’d rather work with them than the whites of San Rafael. They are the bigoted community that outlawed help for imigrants, and the law was unconstitutional. Proof positive of the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Maddness of Crowds! There is such a lack of education that the electoral college is looking better and bettter to the well read educator…

      I got the inside scoop from several sources! First, Ronald Reagan’s friend was a pedophile in love with me when I was only five. His name was Von Zimmerman and he wrote all over our appliances when we were away one weekend. I love Mary Gloria! Mary Gloria is cute… My father was his psychiatrist. Dad graduated from Georgetown and Stanford. He was a diplomat for the University of Georgetown School of Neurology and Psychiatry. He conveyed these private facts of mental illness in our State politics. He hated Ronald Reagan and regularly cursed him all my life. Before he died tragically in a fall, I asked him what happened with that guy Von Zimmerman when he wrote all that stuff on the appliances… I saw the expressions, heard the anger in his voice, saw the dismissals of priests and pastors in the basement. Did not question why he left the church…

      He told me about the Nazi pedophiles. Ronald Reagan was at Von’s party when Dad had to go to San Francisco and medicate him and host his party. Ronald Reagan was there. Ronald revealed to my father the crushing truth in the early sixties that he would be president. Dad got political inviting candidates to the house. A murderer who’s file photos were found in the basement and shredded after Dad died visited my mother to thank Dad… His wife and child were brutally slashed and murdered as evidenced by the black and whites in the basement. I was told not to look, I looked! I do not live in fear. I live in truth. The fascists in control are control freaks. THey will learn sooner or later that life is beautiful and creative not controlled and violent. When they stop we will go back to the garden. They must be stopped! This is Armegeddon. The population has exploded!

      The world is in the ICU. Life is but a narrow bridge and I am not afraid.

      Salmon ran in Lagunitas creek before we used bomb making, waste nitrogen on corn and created the population explosion? 500,000 cojo laid eggs and died in Lagunitas Creek, feeding the wildlife, US and the trees. Now there are 90-490 each year in the last threee years. The most came when I put up signs to get people to pick up litter: ’03 97 salmon; ’04 almost 500, ’05 197! How many will come this year. Not enough to feed the trees, not enough to stop the sudden oak death! And the acid rain of oil monger greed continues to fall.

      Do like the Nez Perce, have a dream vision quest! It will send us back to the garden and music and to a love of nature so profound as to take away the pain of the dark ages of overpopulation and armegeddon! Boycott, boycott, boycott. Send the bullies and thugs out of business and damnit, get the petrochemical, agricultual, industrial, military, violent prison, greedy, war mongers out of the gene pool!

      That is what this is about: overpopulation. See Smithsonian, July, 2006, What’s Eating America! Also Coastal Post, June 2004, Hooray for Scanlon, Disdain for the System. Symptoms of fascist presence in a free country! Down with bullies, rapists and war mongers. Call them what they are:criminals! Get them out of the way of freedom and democracy. And by all means, arm yourself with pen and ink because they are very stupid and cannot read. Might does not make right. The right wing is a busy body, unrepetant thief. Quit talking and do something!

      Mary

    28. Ilya

      Mary —

      I recommend getting your medication upped.

    29. Amendment IVThe right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effectsagainst unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    30. It’s not “You have nothing to fear unless you’re doing something wrong”.

      It’s “You have nothing to fear unless the government is doing something wrong.”

      SearingTruth

    31. Ben McMorran

      I myself have come up with two short responses to the “Nothing To Hide” argument:

      I expect and demand personal privacy for the exact same reason I wear shorts and a T-shirt even when it’s 100 degrees outside. Most people would refuse to submit to a mandatory strip search before boarding a bus, even if the person conducting the search were some octogenarian of the same sexual persuasion. I may not be able to put into words why privacy means much to me, but I can at least evoke parallels to the questioner’s own instinctual reactions.

      A second response is to ask why the questioner would feel uncomfortable allowing their parents to install cameras in their room and listen in on all their phone conversations. After all, the person would probably have nothing major to hide from them. If they would feel uncomfortable with this scenario in which trusted people monitor their behaviour, why would they feel more accepting of the situation in which some unknown individual does the monitoring?

    32. Ron

      One primary reason that privacy is a good thing is that information is power and information about you is power over you. If all the details of your life are available to others then it becomes easy for others to make your life miserable. An analogy would be attaching bombs to everyones body which the government can blow up if they need to stop a crime. It would be just too easy for some of those bombs to get triggered for the wrong reasons. In the same way you don’t want widespread distribution of information about you because someone somewhere (think of all the lunatics in the world) will misuse that information and make your life hell.

    33. BS

      Haven’t finish reading all the posts, but…

      If someone throws that arguement at me, I ask them if they have a problem with me pointing a camera into their bedroom. Using their logic, they shouldn’t have a problem with it – unless they’re hiding something.

    34. Catter

      Q: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

      A: “It’s not about having anything to hide, it’s about things not being anyone else’s business.”

      Day-to day, what I do is MY business. And it isn’t even just a “government watching” thing. It’s way beyond that for me. It’s the little things that matter. What I eat, what I watch on TV, what music I listen to, what I wear, what I read… I’m not 4, I don’t need help, suggestions, oversight, recommendations, or anyone even knowing what I do. It’s hard enough to go to the store a buy stuff on my credit card because I know someone can watch my purchases, what level of what I do is not others’ business? I want to go about my business and do my thing and not be bothered by ANYONE without my asking for assistance.

      I have to fix the car, cook dinner, and work in the garden this weekend, but I’m missing a few things – so I go to the store and buy: motor oil, rubber gloves, and a hose. Seems odd out of context, eh?

      And where is the line of too personal?

      Mr. Senator: “My life is open, I have nothing to hide.”

      Me: “Thank you sir. So, what does you wife weigh and what is her dress size? Favorite sexual position?”

      Too personal?

      It’s not about having anything to hide, it’s about things not being anyone else’s business…

    35. It’s not “You have nothing to fear unless you’re doing something wrong”.

      It’s “You have nothing to fear unless the government is doing something wrong.”

      SearingTruth

      “Who would say freedom is not free, with the price being freedom itself.”

      SearingTruth

      “When everything is secret, everything is legal.”

      SearingTruth

      “The weak always surrender freedom, at the first opportunity.”

      SearingTruth

      “Who will fight, when surrender is of more comfort.”

      SearingTruth

      A Future of the Brave – http://www.searingtruth.com

    36. Watchguy

      My response is simple, the only people with nothing to hide either have not lived a life worth living, or they are in a State Of Denial.

      If an unwillingness to trust those who seek positions of power was good enough for John Adams, it is good enough for me. Anyone else remember J. Edgar Hoover? It ain’t speculation if it already happened!

      Watchguy

    37. Watchguy

      My response is simple, the only people with nothing to hide either have not lived a life worth living, or they are in a State Of Denial.

      If an unwillingness to trust those who seek positions of power was good enough for John Adams, it is good enough for me. Anyone else remember J. Edgar Hoover? It ain’t speculation if it already happened!

      Watchguy

    38. EngNate

      First, do we forget that before 1783, the very existence of the united states of America was illegal?

      Also, do we forget the most important words of our Constitution: “…the people…establish and ordain this…”

      ‘This’ being the United States Government – our agent. The principal retains an inherent right to privacy over the agent it created for its own benefit.

      I, so far, haven’t yet heard anyone give the nothing to hide argument who was speaking truthfully! What they all meant is, there’s nothing I can get in trouble for – that I can forsee. They believe that ultimately our government is and will remain inherently benign and will dutifully serve us of its own accord.

      What will some of these people say the day they discover that their new vehicle automatically reports traffic violations to the police, and the penalties have automatically been taken from their bank account?

      Tricky Dick (That’s Richard Nixon for you youngsters) might not have broken the law at all today, or might not have had to. Gice that some thought…

    39. EngNate

      I almost forgot the original point that had come to mind.

      Back when all this stuff hit the news, I was working for a very wealthy businessman, a fully legit kind of guy to us average folk. He too, waved it off with a confident “I’ve got nothing to hide”. The hardest-hitting answer I could come up with for him would be if he was looking over my shoulder right now!

    40. blah

      I haven’t read most of the responses – there are too many – and so this may have already been mentioned, but one possible problem (although I can sympathize with the ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument) is the govermnet could incriminate you for crimes it thought you might commit in the future.

      If they knew, for example, that you were looking at sites about murder and that you ordered a pick-axe from Ebay and that you also wrote a recent blog entry about how terribly depressed you’ve been since you broke up with your significant other, who’s to say you wouldn’t kill them? But the argument mentioned in the article was a good enough one, I thought.

      Something that just occured to me, though.. A lot of us – or some of us – are ultimately worried about government officials and law enforcement agents incriminating us for things no one really considers a crime, right? Not a bad gripe. But the silver lining in all of this is that if one of us reallydid get incriminated for something frivilous, we could hypothetically find out all the juicy information that whoever incriminated us was trying to keep secret and put his ass in jail next to us, right? Even with the worst of politicians breathing down our necks, the beauty is we can be afforded their dirty little secrets, too.

    41. blah

      I haven’t read most of the responses – there are too many – and so this may have already been mentioned, but one possible problem (although I can sympathize with the ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument) is the govermnet could incriminate you for crimes it thought you might commit in the future.

      If they knew, for example, that you were looking at sites about murder and that you ordered a pick-axe from Ebay and that you also wrote a recent blog entry about how terribly depressed you’ve been since you broke up with your significant other, who’s to say you wouldn’t kill them? But the argument mentioned in the article was a good enough one, I thought.

      Something that just occured to me, though.. A lot of us – or some of us – are ultimately worried about government officials and law enforcement agents incriminating us for things no one really considers a crime, right? Not a bad gripe. But the silver lining in all of this is that if one of us reallydid get incriminated for something frivilous, we could hypothetically find out all the juicy information that whoever incriminated us was trying to keep secret and put his ass in jail next to us, right? Even with the worst of politicians breathing down our necks, the beauty is we can be afforded their dirty little secrets, too.

    42. blah

      I haven’t read most of the responses – there are too many – and so this may have already been mentioned, but one possible problem (although I can sympathize with the ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument) is the govermnet could incriminate you for crimes it thought you might commit in the future.

      If they knew, for example, that you were looking at sites about murder and that you ordered a pick-axe from Ebay and that you also wrote a recent blog entry about how terribly depressed you’ve been since you broke up with your significant other, who’s to say you wouldn’t kill them? But the argument mentioned in the article was a good enough one, I thought.

      Something that just occured to me, though.. A lot of us – or some of us – are ultimately worried about government officials and law enforcement agents incriminating us for things no one really considers a crime, right? Not a bad gripe. But the silver lining in all of this is that if one of us reallydid get incriminated for something frivilous, we could hypothetically find out all the juicy information that whoever incriminated us was trying to keep secret and put his ass in jail next to us, right? Even with the worst of politicians breathing down our necks, the beauty is we can be afforded their dirty little secrets, too.

    43. dave

      It may be pointless to say anything at this point, considering the length of all of this, but I thought I’d toss out a few other thoughts on the matter.

      1. The government is trying to convince us that they need this info to combat terrorism, but no one seems to be pointing out the fact that the government had enough information to do much more to stop 9/11, yet they either misused it, or completely ignored it. Why are we consenting to give them MORE information when they didn’t use correctly what they had to begin with? Rather than taking more information, why not use all that money to make better use of what they have?

      2. They were/are taking the information ILLEGALLY. They weren’t going through the proper channels, even though those channels allowed them to go back and get warrants after they searched. They just did what they wanted to do with no regard to the law. This alone should point out the reason the government should not be trusted with personal information. If someone is going to have access to my records, I want a judge signing off and saying, “Yes, you have probable cause to check this person’s records further.”

      I think we miss the point and give up control of the argument when we try to respond to the comment of “If you have nothing to hide…”. I think we should say, “Congratulations on having nothing to hide, but that’s not really the point.” Then we should bring up the various reasons giving up liberties is bad. Point out past abuses by the government. Point out the illegal spying the government has already done. Point out that our government has shown that they don’t know what to do with the information they have, so giving them more only furthers the possibility that they misuse or become confused by more information. Etc, etc, etc.

      We’re wasting our time trying to respond to BS, simplistic arguments. Take back control of the argument and make your own point rather than spinning in circles trying to reply to their point.

    44. Jack Lord

      The 2 most obvious responses to the disingenuous “nothing to hide” argument is this: Yes, I DO have something to hide-it’s called my privacy! That’s it! That is all you need to say. NEVER apologize for standing up for your privacy, one of the most, if not the most important right you have (or at least it makes the short list, right up there with freedom of speech). W/o right the right to privacy, there is no dignity, which is one of the most important things to any human. And there are people reading this right now who are sneering at the use of the word “dignity” as if it were some sort of flighty idea or “convenience”. But for everyone who sneers, try to take away THEIR dignity and THEIR privacy and see what happens. They suddenly become…..Civil Libertarians. The right to privacy is important because (and this is another answer to the issue of “if you have nothing to hide”) because it simply is not a right of the Govt to invade it-the burden of proof is on the Govt to prove why they would want to invade your privacy in the first place. This leads to the other great response to the “nothing to hide” argument-is the person who’s privacy you’re trying to invade doing something illegal (notice, I didn’t say “wrong” I said illegal)? If not, then you have NOTHING TO WORRY About! If the response is “well that’s why need to invade their privacy” here are my responses:

      -under the US Constitution, there is a mechanism for this-it’s called GET EVIDENCE and GET A WARRANT.

      -The invasion of privacy means that change becames nearly impossible if not outright impossible. ANYBODY who disagrees with the Govt on anything suddenly is termed an “enemy of the state” (ironically, since they are usually trying to improve things and/or throw off an oppressive govt. Because their right to privacy is violated, change becames nearly a pipedream.)

      -It is simply a basic Human Right (you know, one of those things that people take an oath to uphold in the Constitution-yes, the right to privacy DOES exist in the Constitution it’s called the PENUMBRA-look it up)

      -One of the most disingenuous argument against privacy is that it’s “necessary”. I challenge ANYONE who reads this show me how violating privacy is “necessary”. Any information that the govt TRULY needs on someone (I define truly here as something that is legitmately needed, not just because some Govt wacko says so or has a Paranoid-power trip complex or because it is convenient for the govt) can be Legitmately obtained by going through the already existing constitutional process.

      -the last and most importnat point-wihtout the right to privacy, to free speech, etc, our nation becomes a joke and a nightmare. It is all over at that point and you might as well live in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany or any of their modern counterparts. Nothing matters after that. I absolutely reject the argument that it is important to have “security” at the expense of freedom. The argument is 100% false. Oh, and BTW for all you right wingers who like to disingenuously hold up pictures of the Founding Fathers, here’s quote for you from…a Founding Father:

      “those who would sacrifice freedom for the sake of security deserve neither.”

      -Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

    45. Rodney Melton

      And you are right I be hearing about domestic spying and that is absolutely wrong. Now it looks like The Bush Admins. is getting bit by his own dog. Put a “Barny Fife” situation on that.

      If he is so concerned about spying on people, then he deserves to be spied on as well. Supeona his Admins. and lock them all up. Since he is so anxious about spying on people, know what I’m saying?

      Now everybody know he is crutty. He cant

      brainwash people anymore. No no No No not like before. The same thing Richard Nixon use to be doing. Lying to them during non-radio events. Blending in with people. Then puts on a whole different personality on T.V. then blends back in with people during offset. And people be trying ro figure out how he keeps his approval rating so high. Now they know, and they ain’t going for it no more, no no no no not like before.

    46. And you are right I be hearing about domestic spying and that is absolutely wrong. Now it looks like The Bush Admins. is getting bit by his own dog. Put a “Barny Fife” situation on that.

      If he is so concerned about spying on people, then he deserves to be spied on as well. Supeona his Admins. and lock them all up. Since he is so anxious about spying on people, know what I’m saying?

      Now everybody know he is crutty. He cant

      brainwash people anymore. No no No No not like before. The same thing Richard Nixon use to be doing. Lying to them during non-radio events. Blending in with people. Then puts on a whole different personality on T.V. then blends back in with people during offset. And people be trying ro figure out how he keeps his approval rating so high. Now they know, and they ain’t going for it no more, no no no no not like before.

    47. Did anyone mention the possibility of making the government just as watched by everyone else by laying down a system by which anyone can check on anyone? And how would anyone get away with anything in that case? Sure, privacy would die. But so would pretty much all wrong doing.. given everyone is immediately accountable. Give up something, get something. The in between doesn’t sound very favorable.

    48. I read your nothing to hide essay and thought I’d like to add my response to this question:

      People don’t come with forehead labels like “honest person”, “hardworking citizen”, “serial killer”, “stalker/rapist”, “kind fatherly gentlement”, “child abuser”. If they did, it would be easy to tell who to be honest with and who to keep information from or lie to outright. The fact is that you don’t have to have done something wrong to draw the attention of a sick, evil, twisted person.

      Every piece of information you give to someone who wants to hurt you makes it easier for them to do it. Since you can’t tell the difference between “Just a nice guy” and “Wants to cut you into little pieces”, you are putting yourself and your family in danger every time you are free and loose with information.

      I also go into how this applies to the government, but this post is getting long. The full article is posted here:

      http://www.jeremyduffy.com/privacy-security/nothing-to-hide/

    49. SteveGinIL

      I agree completely with Reed Gelzer on June 20, 2006 who says, “Why do we have the right to vote in private?” I do not agree with him that a secret ballot is only about anonymity, though. Some people don’t care if others know how they voted; some do. It is secret for all, whether they want anonymity or not. Everybody is free to ‘out’ themselves, and many do. But the government itself may not do so.

      Those who do out themselves as liberals (now) or conservatives (in FDR’s time) or socialist or communist in the McCarthy era run a serious risk of being seen as ‘out of the mainstream’. Some may relish their iconoclasm, but many would never thump their chest on a box in the park and let their leanings be known. It is their choice to hide or not to hide – but all of the above are actually legal and theoretically the world will let them be. But theory is not always in conjunction with the world.

      The attitude has been voiced by many on the right in recent years, that liberalism is essentially considered a crime or a deviant mental aberration. In reality, it has been an ongoing presence in U.S. political life since the beginnings of the Republic. But those on the right, especially those who thought that there would be a permanent Republican majority, think that they should actively intimidate, excoriate and, politically speaking, kill off all the liberals. Liberals are seen as “the enemy”, just as Richard Nixon seemed to see anyone who disagreed with him as someone to put on his enemies list.

      My contentions are two fold:

      1.) That the people who are pushing for non-warrant NSA data mining are also the ones who I believe are the most likely to use it – now or in the future – to put people on an enemies list, to the detriment (possibly for a very long time) of those so labeled.

      2.) That the people pushing for such data mining are also ones who seem to me likely to widen the data mining to include things other than the admitted-to terrorism targets. I have zero faith in these people that this wider swath has not already been done. It has come out in recent months that there is more than just the one program by the NSA (possibly by another agency(ies) in or out of the government), though the public nor the Congress is not being told what those other programs are. Even the NSA one was hidden, and the source of its outing is still being sought in order to prosecute the person(s) who brought the government’s illegality to the public’s notice.

      That last may be the real, strongest, argument against the NSA wiretapping/eavesdropping/data mining:

      If it is legal, why did they choose to keep it secret? From whom? Why keep it secret if the government has nothing to hide?

      The people who argue “if you have nothing to hide” don’t even apply that same question to the NSA program!

      The ‘terrorists’ certainly knew their communications were at risk, in many ways, so it cannot be that the government was concerned that the terrorists would discover they are being watched. The only other groups to keep it secret from is the public, the Congress, and the courts. Especially they would want to hide it from those in the public who know what the existing law is and has been, and who would seek to stop it. We all know that FISA was sufficient for 30 years, and still is. Violating FISA IS against the law, clearly and specifically. They had every opportunity to follow FISA, and they did, sometimes, but not always. The times they chose not to, they did so completely aware that they were doing things contrary to FISA. The Congress when writing FISA made a very conscious effort to weigh privacy heavily, to not violate the Constitution in that regard. They would not have written those safeguards in if it was not important. This government intentionally chose not to follow either FISA or the Constitution when setting out the NSA program. The government DOES have something to hide – its own criminal actions. The law is the law.

      (P.S. Does Congress passing laws saying that the NSA program is legal NOW exonerate people who violated FISA in the past? In other words, does ex post facto work in reverse?)

    50. GregW

      Care-less: “I’ve got nothing to hide.”

      Advocate: “Yes, but knowledge about you and everyone else is power, and power corrupts. Who will watch the watchers?”

      1. I’ve heard it posed as “if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” To which I reply: “I don’t care for people to know what I do that is right.”

        Its weak. Its not catchy. But the main point is: just because something is right (permissible or even laudable) does not mean it should be transparent.

      2. I can think of a couple. First, such domestic spying tactics are similar to those we disparaged when they were the tools of despotic fascists and communist regimes. It’s not logically airtight, but I know that those persons most likely to use the “nothing to hide” argument would find themselves blunted if they know that’s exactly what Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia told their people: “If you’ve nothing to hide, then there’s no need to fear.”

        The second argument is simply that domestic spying deters activity that’s entirely legal. For example, people who call phone sex lines or dubious “singles chat” lines may not make those calls if they know the government is collecting all phone records. More troubling, perhaps, is that people with relatives in the middle east will be discouraged from using their landlines to make legitimate calls to their non-terrorist relatives.

      3. Paul Gowder

        I fear that your appeal to being a pragmatist to excuse being unconvinced by inherent rights talk is more a point against pragmatism than a point against inherent rights talk. When you experience yourself as susceptible to snooping, under the panopticon as it were, don’t you experience it as an indignity? As a loss of control over yourself and your representation in the universe? And isn’t that indignity alone, that loss of control alone, sufficient to condemn the practice?

        I’d suggest that your objection to surveilance that people shouldn’t have to be ever-on-alert to justify themselves counts as an inherent rights objection too. Inherently, we have the right not to be subject to being called upon by the state to justify our behavior within the sphere of autonomy that doesn’t violate criminal law.

        Relatedly, the Durrenmatt objection can be modified to avoid the concern with concealing crime. The problem isn’t just that a crime can always be found, it’s that suspicious non-criminal behavior can always be found. Go into the details of anyone’s life, and you can find them making a mysterious pattern of (perfectly legal) international calls while checking out (perfectly legal) chemistry ooks from the library, and if they happen to be a member of a (perfectly legal) advocacy group like CAIR at the same time… NO MORE PLANE TICKETS FOR YOU, BUB!

      4. A more philosophical argument was developed by Beate Rössler in her book “The Value of Privacy” (Polity Press 2004): No matter if you do something wrong or illegal – just the fact that you feel watched or know you are being watched has an impact on the way you behave. Therefore, it endangers your authenticity and autonomy.

        There is also a good text about the functional value of secrets for individualism and social differentiation by one of the founders of modern sociology: Georg Simmel, “The Sociology of Secrecy and of Secret Societies” American Journal of Sociology 11 (1906): 441-498.

        A bit tough to read for non-sociologists, but highly recommended!

        I would add that a major problem in most of the current surveillance schemes is the built-in asymmetry between the watchers and those being watched. This constitutes a form of hierarchy and potential power that should not be created easily and needs constant checks and balances. It somehow boils down to “who’s watching the watchers”, but more with a focus on power than on potential misuse.

      5. MR

        “But still, the person who says ‘I have nothing to hide’ might not be concerned about her data being misinterpreted or in having to justify herself.”

        I think a good response to this is “OK, if those people might not be concerned, then why not just ask them?”

      6. annegb

        Okay, I’m going to skip all the legalese and tell you what normal uneducated people think. I think this is what we think, anyway.

        I don’t have anything to hide from the government. I don’t think I had that much hidden from the government in the first place. I don’t think they care if I talk about my onery neighbor.

        The goodness of the ordinary average American just makes this outrage nonsensical.

        There are things in my life that I would prefer not to publicize, but that’s not the purpose of this eavesdropping.

        Ask Madonna or Britney Spears how much privacy they had before 9/11. Privacy, dignity, those things are a state of mind nowadays.

        I just don’t see what’s so terribly different.

      7. Joe

        Annegb,

        You sound like an elite to me; I don’t think you really understand the views of the people. Let me tell you what we normal people REALLY think: We don’t want the government mucking around for no reason, but we want them to keep an eye out for the bad guys.

      8. My response is “So do you have curtains?” or “Can I see your credit card bills for the last year?”

      9. MJ

        I think “If you’re not doing anything wrong, its worth a possible minimal invasion of your privacy to possibly detect or prevent another 9/11” more accurately reflects a great many folks mindset on this issue.

        You can’t talk about how people feel about the potential loss of privacy in any meaningful way without recognizing that most of the people who don’t mind the NSA programs see it as a potential exchange of a small amount of privacy for a potential national security gain.

      10. John Steele

        If we’re just disucssing rhetoric, it’s very hard to find something snappy to counter that. We have a similar problem in legal ethics, where proponents of more exceptions to the duty of confidentiality say “corrupt clients don’t deserve strict confidentiality and honest ones don’t need it.” I disagree, but my counter arguments are complicated. It’s an uneven playing field, rhetorically speaking.

        But on the particular issue of the recently revealed NSA programs, I wonder if the rights-talking crowd is a little behind the times and hence a little over reliant on what strikes many Americans as empty rhetoric.

        Some examples. Amazon knows my reading and purchasing habits well enought to make suggestions pitched directly to me. My credit card company knows my behavior well enough to call me when a strange purchase gets made with my card. My spouse, my secretary, and my firm’s accounting department see the phone numbers I call and the numbers that call me. The electronic keycard in my wallet informs the building management when I arrive, where I go in the building, and when I leave the parking garage. My magazine and newspaper subscription information gets sold to political parties and fund raisers who derive clues about my politics from my reading habits. Most lawyers record their daily activites in small increments and input that data to computers for transmission to clients. Every financial institution I transact business with sends data about me annually to the IRS. And on and on and on. Scott McNealy, the visionary founder of Sun Microsystems is famous for saying “We have no privacy. Get over it.” I’d go even further and say that most of the losses of privacy I described in this paragraph come with huge benefits to me.

        So, I would be disappointed if the federal government didn’t take a nice baseline study of who is calling whom so the feds can do traffic analysis.

      11. Bob

        Being seen is not the same as being watched. Watching implies a purpose and actions taken for achieving that purpose. When a person says that they have nothing to hide I think that they are saying that they are not adverse to being seen.

        When we are watched, often what is seen is memorialized to aid in achieving the watchers purpose. Information that is recorded can be repurposed. The information that is recorded when I go online to buy something most likely was collected to assist the seller with maintaining inventory. Later they found out that they could use the information to make suggestions on products that I might be interested in based on my viewing. Still later some have discovered that they can use the information to adjust prices on goods based on my interest and need. Not all of these uses of information are to my benefit.

        Cardinal Richelieu said “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.” How long must I be watched to get the equivalent of six lines?

      12. “I would be disappointed if the federal government didn’t take a nice baseline study of who is calling whom so the feds can do traffic analysis.”

        They don’t need any “baseline study.” They are buying the commercial databases, which serves the nifty function for them of side-stepping privacy protections. Unfortunately for us, it also means that their info on us may be seriously inaccurate and that important decisions about further surveillance of us or intrusions into our privacy may be based on wrong data.

        On one of my professional mail lists (for mental health professionals), we have been having a discussion of why some people feel that the NSA domestic spying and the telecoms’ cooperation with same are significant invasions of privacy while others see it as a minor invasion or not an invasion at all. For me, personal privacy is the default state, it should be up to the individual how much to disclose about themselves, and any governmental intrusions (which I see as a boundaries issue) requires a compelling demonstration of justification and need. So I can choose to reveal information about myself to vendors to obtain benefits, and that’s ok as it’s informed consent if they adhere to their contract or privacy policy, but if I then find out that they have shared that information in breach of the contract, I feel angry and violated. I was one of many people, for example, who terminated my membership in the ACLU after they sold their membership lists.

        As some of my colleagues hypothesized, some of the reaction of “it’s no big deal” or “we trust our government” may come from people who were raised to blind adherence to an ideology or religious indoctrination that leads to unquestioning trust in the benevolence and infallibility of leaders. But then, as a recent study finds, there may well be some gender-related issues that come into play here, because I certainly appear to be a lot more intense/militant about these issues than many of my colleagues.

        So my response to the “If you have nothing to hide…” argument is simply, “I don’t need to justify my position. You need to justify yours. Come back with a warrant.”

        Good blog entry, Daniel. Thank you for always raising some thought-provoking issues.

      13. MJ

        Dissent,

        “[S]ome of the reaction of ‘it’s no big deal’ or ‘we trust our government’ may come from people who were raised to blind adherence to an ideology or religious indoctrination that leads to unquestioning trust in the benevolence and infallibility of leaders.”

        Its offensive that you have to ascribe a differing view to some fundamental character flaw – the “they’re sheep who just don’t no better” insinuation – in the persons who disagree with you. It’s no different than me saying “Some of the hysteria over this may come from people who were traumatized by an overly-protective mother to the point of being irrationally afraid of the government.”

        I’m not blind, unquestioning, or ignorant. I simply think that given the potential national security interest of detecting a would-be terrorist attack, the collection of information about me that I have assumed for years is already floating out in the public ether, is not a particular invasion of my privacy.

      14. MJ: please re-read what I wrote. I did not say that that was my analysis. I prefaced the material that you quoted with, “As some of my colleagues hypothesized,”.

        I have never characterized conflicting opinions as “ignorant.” My whole purpose in raising the topic on a professional mail list was to try to get my MHP colleagues to think about the psychological foundations and psychological sequelae of what’s going on. Not surprisingly, despite my attempts to avoid politics and religion, a lot of the respondents stated that they could not really separate the issues totally because of the influence of political ideology and religious doctrine on how many people are reacting to current events.

        Peace.

      15. MJ

        OK. I’m a prosecutor and some of my colleagues have hypothesized that some of the reaction of “the sky is falling” or “we live in a totalitarian state” may come from people who were raised to worship the campus radicals of the 1960’s and are blinded by their adherence to an ideology or left-wing indoctrination.

        Any less offensive or condescending?

      16. annegb

        Well, I’m not sure what an elite is, but I don’t think I am one. I’m pretty normal Joe American, lower middle class. I don’t understand oh, let’s say 90% of what you guys are talking about, so I think you would be elite, not me.

        I don’t have anything to hide that the government would be interested in, if they want to see my credit card bill, who gives a crap. You, why would you want to?

        I have three secrets. But I wander the yard in my nightgown and I don’t care if the government listens to me gripe about my daughter in law. You could hear it, too, if you want.

        I suppose I’m sort of unique in that my life is an open book, but still, why would the government care to look in my window? They’re looking for specific stuff and if they think I’m that interesting, more power to them. You’re probably not that interesting, either.

        There’s a bunch of “french engineers” however, down the street, who come and go, and sometimes they are different “french engineers.” I’m thinking terrorists. I’d down with tapping their phones.

      17. MJ: your colleagues’ hypotheses are neither offensive nor condescending to me. I trained as a scientist and a hypothesis is simply that to me — a hypothesis — whether it’s generated by my colleagues or by your colleagues. The test of any hypothesis is to see whether the data support it or, better yet, can predict future behavior, keeping in mind that correlation does not imply causation. Unless you wish to argue that our early or prior experiences — religious, political, familial, school, etc. — don’t shape or modulate our beliefs about these issues, then we certainly should be considering those factors if we’re trying to explain why some people view these things as serious privacy invasions while others do not. That said, any one factor may be valuable in explaining some people’s behavior, but even if it is, it may not explain all people’s behavior, so if you’re objecting to the idea that there is only one explanation — e.g., the hypothesis advanced by some of my colleagues — I would tend to agree with you. I see this as a pretty complex question.

        Bottom line: if you took offense by my mentioning how others were approaching answering my question about the diversity and strength of various reactions, well, you can take it up with them. To me, it’s an intriguing question, and I don’t have any answers or speculations that would even rise to the level of a hypothesis.

        But now you’ve piqued my curiosity: are you seeing any general agreement among prosecutors as to whether prosecutors are more inclined or less inclined to see the warrantless domestic surveillance as a privacy invasion?

      18. MJ

        Dissent,

        No consensus among prosecutors (that I’m aware of) I was merely hypotheticalizing, though I can attest to the fact that I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of grand jury subpoenas – which do not require probable cause – issued for people’s cell phone/land line records, and, thus, I’d doubt that any prosecutor believes anyone has any reasonable expectation of privacy in them per Smith v. Maryland.

        But I still find it implausible to believe that you could never find a proffered hypothesis offensive:

        “As some of my colleagues hypothesized, some of the reaction of ‘it’s no big deal’ or ‘we trust our government’ may come from Irish-Americans who were possibly so intoxicated that they aren’t concerned about what their government does”

        – is an example that leaps to mind. And, if you don’t think “blind adherence to an ideology or religious indoctrination that leads to unquestioning trust in the benevolence and infallibility of leaders” is a pitiful stereotype of religious persons: you should.

      19. “As some of my colleagues hypothesized, some of the reaction of ‘it’s no big deal’ or ‘we trust our government’ may come from Irish-Americans who were possibly so intoxicated that they aren’t concerned about what their government does”

        I’m not confident that you’ll believe me on this, MJ, but my first reaction when I’m in a “trying to understand this behavior” mode would not be, “That’s offensive.” My first reaction is usually a more neutral, “Is there any support for that hypothesis?” So I didn’t just start ranting when books came out claiming black people have lower IQs. I read the books and evaluated their data to see why they were claiming that and whether their data supported their claims or whether they had ‘massaged’ or misinterpreted the data to support some bias. And I don’t have a hissy fit and start singing “I Am Woman” when people suggest that maybe a woman’s behavior contributed to something that happened to her, even though I know it doesn’t excuse the behavior of an assailant.

        So did I find my colleagues’ hypothesis offensive? No. It was just a hypothesis to me. Can I understand why you or others might find it offensive? Certainly, but that wouldn’t stop me from considering it.

        And, if you don’t think “blind adherence to an ideology or religious indoctrination that leads to unquestioning trust in the benevolence and infallibility of leaders” is a pitiful stereotype of religious persons: you should.

        The hypothesis doesn’t say that all people who are religious are trained in blind adherence, etc. The hypothesis would set up a test that looks to determine if there is a particular subgroup of religious or political people who are more likely to hold a particular view on this issue than those who are not part of that subgroup. I’m not trying to support the hypothesis itself, btw. For me, it was, and remains an untested guess about one factor that might help explain the variability in responses to the situation.

        If we changed the language system, I’d bet that you may also do exactly what I’m talking about: in your role as prosecutor, do you immediately dismiss some suggestions because they’re offensive to you (e.g., “This crime was probably committed by a [insert profile]”) or do you consider whether there are any data to support that hypothesis? I could be wrong, and if I am, I’m sure you’ll correct me, but I would have guessed that a good prosecutor has to have the same kind of critically analytic approach that a behavior scientist has — one that emphasizes data and proof and not one that is driven by our emotions or considerations about being PC.

      20. How’s this for pith?

        Q: If you don’t have anything to hide, what’s the problem?

        A: I don’t have anything to hide. But I don’t have anything I feel like showing you, either.

      21. annegb

        The question was “is there a good response for the nothing to hide argument?” Which I suppose people like me are saying a lot. Nothing you have said here convinces me that there is.

        Put it in plain English, convince me, the voter, that we are being foolish when we dismiss the government’s tapping of our phones.

        So far, you lawyer guys are not doing a very good job. You don’t need to convince one another, you need to convince ME.

      22. Paul Gowder

        anneb: let me offer you this. There are people who have been put on the no-fly list or watch list for no visible reason, who have no idea what they could have possibly done to have themselves put there. Including Senator Kennedy.

        How is this relevant, you ask? Well, it’s massive data-mining that permits the government to string together a bunch of irrelevancies and conclude someone is suspicious enough to lose their right to participate on an ordinary basis in the marketplace for certain kinds of travel.

        How do you know that a couple of funny-looking but totally innocent international calls won’t land you on some government harassment list, like it did a United States Senator? What legitimate, good faith, authentic basis do you have for your belief that this won’t happen to you? Or do you believe it’ll happen to you and just not care?

      23. annegb

        Do you think that would wash with ordinary Americans who hardly ever make an international call anyway? Who gives a crap about Kennedy, he deserves all the inconvenience we can visit on him–hell, he’s responsible for the death of one woman, who knows what else he’s done.

        How do you know they were totally innocent international calls?

        Make a better argument. Because I’m dying to be convinced, to have an opinion on this that relates to me, Joe Citizen, not some Senator nobody likes anyway. You guys are lawyers, this is the best you got?

        I could so win in the court of public opinion, with only a high school education–and that matters, guys. That matters. If you don’t make a solid argument to the ordinary American, you lose this battle and I think it’s an important one. Make me give a crap.

      24. Anne,

        Have you ever had a computer be wrong on you? Ever argued with the IRS? This matters to you because when the NSA’s computers are wrong, you’ll never ever get them to admit there’s a problems, never mind get it fixed.

        Try opening a bank account, getting on an airplane, or getting a new job when you’re on the terrorist list.

      25. annegb

        I guess, Adam, what I was hoping for was a more convincing argument from a bunch of lawyers. These things wouldn’t convince me if I were on a jury, especially if the government was throwing 9/11 in my face.

        I think you have to make people feel this, to make it real to people. Ted Kennedy sure doesn’t do that for most people.

        I actually haven’t argued with the IRS or ever made an international phone call.

        Isn’t the issue here the government listening in to phone calls? For most of us, it’s not that big a deal who hears what we talk about over the phone. It’s not about my credit cards or my computer, it’s about phone calls.

        Like I said, there are times I’m certainly not at my best, ie gossiping about my neighbor, but I honestly don’t have anything to hide from the law based on the phone calls I make.

        You guys need to find a way to stick to the issue and make your point. Maybe you don’t have a point. Maybe you do, but so far, on this blog, nobody has convinced me.

      26. Paul Gowder

        Anne, the most insidious things are things you can’t feel! Tyranny (yes, I’m going to say tyranny) doesn’t present itself as a sudden invasion of soldiers with jackboots breaking in your door to haul you away screaming. Not in 2006. In 2006, tyranny presents itself insidiously, in the gaps between efficiencies, in the architecture (read Larry Lessig’s Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace) of the tools that we use to live our lives. It presents itselves in databases and cameras and pen registers and little nudges, made at the edge of society, to slightly raise the cost of undesired behavior.

        ALSO: If you don’t value the robust kind of society where other people can make international phone calls, or criticize the Bush administration without having to fear government harassment — even if you don’t do those things yourself — you are both unethical and unwise. Unethical, because you’d deprive others of their freedoms simply because you don’t wish to use them. Unwise, because those freedoms are themselves exercised in your interests. When the government wiretaps journalists, they prevent you from learning what’s going on in your government, and they prevent you from making informed decisions about your world.

      27. annegb

        Of course I value ethical societies, Paul, but that’s not the point.

        I said I only have a high school education, you’re talking above me, and most Americans. You guys were trying to make an argument against the “I don’t have anything to hide.” Who did you want to convince, each other?

        Why bother to make a meaningful argument in terms people can’t understand or accept? Americans aren’t stupid, but neither do we have time to indulge a lot rhetoric. Most of us are trying to survive and have only given this a passing thought. It doesn’t impact my life.

        I’m saying, “Make it impact my life.” I’m saying, you are preaching to the choir and what is it 68% + – Americans say, “I have nothing to hide.”

        Do you hope to make substantive change by urging the American housewife to read Larry Lessig?

        Ignoring those who do not understand your elevated argument gets you nowhere. Comparing our society right now, comfortable as it is in middle America, to Nazi Germany, does not resonate.

        I didn’t say no one should make international phone calls. I said the ARGUMENT one of your presented re international phone calls doesn’t make any sense to me.

        And I, or the symbolic I, middle America, will be the ones voting. You have got to reach ME.

        I have a nasty habit of stumbling onto blogs and getting into arguments without real context. I’m thinking you guys are highly educated lawyers and I read this and I thought, “well, that doesn’t do me any good.” You may be law smart, you may be book smart, but you need to be people smart.

        Like Hitler was.

      28. Paul Gowder

        Anne,

        Personally, comments like yours make me want to curse democracy and give “middle America” the back of my hand. Not because of my contempt for “the American housewife,” but because of yours. Why do you insist that “middle America” can’t, or won’t, respond to the kinds of arguments presented here?

        Speaking for myself, if I can’t reach people with a moral argument: “this is right, and this is wrong,” I don’t want to reach them. If “middle America” will only listen to oversimplifications, lies and demagogic rhetoric (the sort of things that are used by people who are “people smart, like Hitler was” !!!!!) then maybe we need to worry about the educational system first.

        Maybe there isn’t an argument against “I don’t have anything to hide” that is capable of being understood or accepted by “middle Americans.” I don’t believe that, but I’ll grant it for the sake of argument.

        If that’s so, then I submit we’re doomed anyway.

      29. Paul,

        I think the reason Anne is insisting that “‘middle America’ can’t, or won’t, respond to the kinds of arguments presented here” is because there is no evidence that they are. Democrats have been pushing the two NSA programs since the moment they emerged as evidence of Bush’s malfeasance, and yet there has not been a single poll taken that shows anything even remotely approaching a majority as disapproving. And this is at a time when Bush’s approval numbers are absolutely chronic – about twice as many poll respondents approve of the NSA program as the many who ordered it!

        I would think that those of you who are troubled by – or who outright oppose – these programs would be very interested in finding some kind of argument against the program that is going to stick with the kind of voters you need on your side to do something about the program. And yet instead of taking the opportunity here, you’re berating Anne for not agreeing with you, rather than taking the opportunity to find an argument that works.

        Do you really see that as a winning strategy? Perhaps I spoke too soon when I said the Republicans were going to lose the House this fall. I’m reminded of What’s the matter with Kansas, wherein the author argues that there is a massive disconnect between the Democratic party and non-coastal America, and yet reaches the most counter-intuitive conclusion imaginable: the problem with Kansas isn’t that the Democratic party is out of touch, it’s that the voters are stupid! It’s not that the Democrats need to change their minds or find better ways of explaining themselves to the voters, it’s that the voters need to get a haircut, stand up straight and pay attention to their philosopher kings. This is exactly what I see you doing with Anne here: you have your point of view (which may even be correct, who knows), but confronted with someone who disagrees, when the arguments you use among people who agree with you fail, you run out of steam. Your party is in the minority, yet you blame the very people you need. Is that a winning strategy?

        Meanwhile, in other news:

        If you don’t value the robust kind of society where other people can make international phone calls, or criticize the Bush administration without having to fear government harassment — even if you don’t do those things yourself — you are both unethical and unwise.

        Is there any serious evidence that the administration has been harassing its critics using information garnered from either of the NSA programs?

      30. Paul Gowder

        Simon,

        But those are the arguments! If the correct arguments against a practice don’t convince people, are we supposed to make up incorrect arguments? Tell lies?

        A: “You shouldn’t kill people, because murder is wrong.”

        B: “I’m not convinced by moral arguments. Tell me something else.”

        A: “You shouldn’t kill people because the all-seeing space aliens will come and beat you up.”

        B: “Oh, ok.”

        – – –

        Re: evidence of harassment, not yet, but the government has a lengthy record of using supposed “security” problems to harass its opponents. Here’s some examples.

        During the course of the debate, he shouted that “George Bush is as dumb as a rock,” an unfortunate comment that provoked the Raleigh-Durham Airport security staff to call the local Secret Service bureau, which sent out two agents to interrogate Stuber… Particularly ominous, he says, was a loose-leaf binder held by the Secret Service agents. “It was open, and while they were questioning me, I discreetly looked at it,” he says. “It had a long list of organizations, and I was able to recognize the Green Party, Greenpeace, EarthFirst and Amnesty International.”

        That’s not to say that they intend to use the NSA programs to do this. Only that there’s good cause for mistrust.

      31. Paul,

        I’m not necessarily saying that you need to make stuff up, but I am suggesting that it may be possible to frame the same arguments in a way that make more sense to people who don’t agree with you, and even when that fails, it is unwise to berate the people who you fail to convince.

        Personally, my only concerns about the NSA programs (and keep in mind, unlike Anne, I frequently make international calls – my family is dispersed to several parts of the globe) relate to Congressional oversight; I have no objection to either program as long as Congress is in the loop. But to be fair, the reason the administration gives for refusing to share with Congress is that Congress can’t or won’t break its addiction to leaking information (the correct counterargument is: neither can the executive branch). I don’t know if that’s entirely fair, but I do think there’s some validity in it; to some extent, the program has to be secret to operate, and it won’t be secret if you tell any Democratic Senator with Presidential ambitions, because they will promptly leak it.

      32. Speaking of framing issues more effectively, I trust you’ve read Moral Politics by George Lakoff? My understanding is that it’s very popular in liberal circles presently, and it’s actually a very good read. I didn’t agree with him, but it’s fascinating stuff.

      33. Paul Gowder

        Simon… a confession: I’m ignorant of the techniques of “framing.” I’ve heard of Lakoff’s work, but I haven’t read any of it yet. Honestly, the notion is kind of sickening to me: I think the Democrats need to strongly articulate a moral position, not engage in social-psychological manipulation.

        That being said, how would you “frame” the arguments presented above in a way that would speak more to Anne’s hypothetical people? Seriously, what does it mean? Are there different words to use? Should we say “NSA spying” instead of “NSA snooping?” Is it a matter of putting it in some kind of libertarian vernacular “why can’t the government keep out of our business?” What?

      34. Paul Gowder

        Oh, and in terms of leaking it: isn’t that, under one view of the world, the job of congressional oversight? It’s a funny kind of congressional oversight that allows the congresspersons to see the outrageous behavior and not cry foul.

      35. I’d send you a copy of Moral Politics, but I’ve lent it to somebody. As I understand it, it isn’t really the same thing as “spin” (which really is social-psychological manipulation), it’s a question of putting an argument into terms that the listener can relate to.

        I don’t know how you’d frame this particular issue. Certainly I’d frame it in quasi-libertarian terms of civil liberties, not in terms of paranoia about the Bush administration; you could even paint it in conservative terms: this is big government sticking its nose into your business; if you think background checks for firearms are invasive, how can you support what amounts to background checks for movement? And so on.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to encourage y’all too much – I do, after all, hope I’m wrong about us losing the House this fall.

      36. annegb

        Should you try to give me the back of your hand, young man, you would live to regret it dearly. I could so take you.

        Paul, why should we believe you just because you say it? The burden of proof is yours. when you go into court, do you get frustrated and give up because the other side won’t come over to your side? No, you should try to make them understand it.

        Some things are not necessarily all right or all wrong and why should I take your word for it? Who are you to decide? Make your case. What did you do during law school when people refused to agree with you, smack them, suck your thumb or do your homework?

        I’m saying middle America can’t or won’t respond to your arguments because they are not meaningful to us. We do not believe we are on the verge of a Nazi state, show me how we are. SHOW ME. Don’t try to scare me with horror stories, my life isn’t like that. My neighbors’ kids are fighting in Iraq, I am coming from a place that wants to fight terrorism any way I can.

        Geez, I can’t believe lawyers are having such a hard time understanding what I’m trying to say. Where’s Gerry Spence when you need him?

        “My people” are not hypothetical, these are real Americans whose lives haven’t been inconvenienced by these supposed civil rights abuses that you talk about.

        When I first heard this, I felt some alarm, then thought, “oh, well, I’m okay, I’m not breaking the law” and also thought enough people would complain somewhere that the practice would be stopped. Then I read that most Americans thought the same thing I did and I thought, “oh, okay.”

        Do you know of cases where (don’t give me Ted Kennedy)law abiding peoples’ lives have been ruined by wiretapping? Make it real to me.

        Geez, I should go to law school.

      37. Paul Gowder

        Simon: But think of how much more interesting it would be with two parties in government! 🙂

        Anne: I don’t have the names of people whose lives have been ruined by NSA wiretapping. If that’s what it will take to convince you that they’re wrong, then I won’t convince you that they’re wrong. That’s the way it is. They haven’t gotten there yet. I can give you story after story of people who have been randomly stepped on as a result of similar programs (mostly the no-fly list, because that happens to have a really visible effect, namely, not being permitted to get on the plane — and for some of those stories, see the link a couple comments up). After that, you can choose to infer that the government can’t be trusted with the power to keep track of who we’re talking to, or you can choose not to make that inference. It’s up to you.

        Reality. The arguments you have are my best arguments. If you don’t agree with them, then we’ll have to agree to disagree. That doesn’t mean I can’t think you’re wrong for disagreeing. It doesn’t mean my arguments aren’t sufficient given X view of the relationship between the government and the people. It means that you hold a different view of that relationship, lets call it Y relationship.

        I’m not sure if we can talk through that, though. I’m not sure if we can ever communicate past different conceptions of how the government and the people ought to relate to each other. I believe, as a basic ground-level opinion that informs my entire political perspective, that government observation always carries with it a threat that the government will exercise its immense power on what it observes, and that the government can not be trusted to exercise that power fairly without the sort of checks and balances that are wholly absent in a government program. Someone must watch the watchers. This is an abstract principle. I believe it to be correct on the basis of my experience of the world, and I can justify it with other abstract principles (I can, for example, defend it based on the work of Habermas and Foucault. If you want, I’ll e-mail you a copy of the published paper where I’ve done so. But it won’t convince “middle America,” I promise you.)

        You apparently do not agree with that root political view. I don’t know how to span that gulf. I don’t know that it’s possible. The difference between the “observation = power, and power is too easy to misuse” perspective and the “I have nothing to hide, and I trust the government to not abuse the information it has” perspective is just too vast. There’s years of socialization and experience behind each of our views, and each set of views is reinforced by our respective social networks, educational experiences, etc. and is otherwise heavily conditioned.

        How do I convince you to stop trusting the government? How does anyone?

        How do you convince me to start trusting the government? How does anyone?

      38. Paul Gowder

        “without the sort of checks and balances that are wholly absent in a government program” above should have been “wholly absent in a secret program.” Sorry.

      39. annegb

        First, I don’t even know the facts of the phone listening problem. I don’t even know what the government is doing. But can’t anybody pretty much access our phone records? They do on CSI, Law & Order, and Without a Trace.

        Paul, I don’t trust the government. I don’t necessarily distrust every government employee, but I have seen what the government can do in the lives of its citizens, primarily in the military. I was active for years in an organization that fought for reform, with no real success, in the military investigative process.

        We did achieve a great deal of work and information gathering with no professional help, though. We were able to generate significant media attention and get the public on our side, which apparently you haven’t done. Whoever “you” are.

        Although, guess what? Public attention cannot move the military, I’m convinced of that.

        I wasn’t even trying to convince you to trust the government. I was trying to convince you that your argument wouldn’t convince Joe citizen and I thought you needed to try harder. I would frankly like to see more outrage on this issue. I just don’t feel it. Which may sound contradictory.

        I really have little context for going on this site, I don’t know what your root political views are, or even what you guys do, beyond be lawyers.

        I hope I’ve woke you up to the realization that your argument needs work. Basically.

        I’m sorry I said I could beat you up. I probably could, but still. You’re not the first guy on the blog I’ve put up my dukes to.

      40. can’t anybody pretty much access our phone records? They do on CSI, Law & Order, and Without a Trace.

        They also have cool holographic displays on CSI, but I doubt that many of those exist outside of Sun Microsystems’ advanced projects division. These shows are entertainment; they are not designed or (presumably) intended to reflect the realities of the legal system, and still less, the finer points of evidentiary rules.

        In any event, phone records can be accessed with a subpoena, but what appears to be at issue in this program, so far as it has been revealed, is the absence of subpoenas. That’s not a problem in the case of the international call monitoring, which is covered by the border search exception (searches at the border or its functional equivalent do not fall within the Fourth Amendment; see U.S. v. Ramsey, 431 U.S. 606), but it is almost certainly a problem (for the Telcos, at least) in the case of the data mining program.

      41. From the better late than never department…

        I too have spent a considerable amount of time trying to make this principal laden issue tangible for people who don’t immediately understand, much less agree with, the important role that privacy plays in our lives.

        So let’s try this one on for size:

        All humans are born into sin, and are capable of incredible atrocities.

        As such, you’d be wise not to trust them implicitly.

        Governments are made up of humans.

        Therefore, they are not to be trusted either.

        Guilt by association can ruin your reputation and eventually your life.

        This happened to hundreds of innocent, law-abiding American citizens during the McCarthy era witch hunts, with information that was collected manually.

        Think of the current NSA eavesdropping and datamining activities as the warmup to another witch hunt, this time on steroids.

        Those of you who’re still rolling your eyes over the use of the word “sin” should consider this before you toss this argument out the window: while it may appear archaic (or possibly even contrived) to more sophisticated eyes, many people understand that concept and have a visceral response to it.

        Now, run that argument by the guy next door and then ask them if they have any problems with what the NSA’s been up to lately, and I suspect that they’ll respond differently than the polls would suggest.

      42. I’ll admit that I have occasionally used the “I have nothing to hide” comment, but I’ve always attached the important caveat: “so long as the privacy that I’m giving up is balanced by some meaningful benefit”.

        I have credit cards because I appreciate the ease of use and flexibility. I occasionally sign up for newsletters (after carefully examining the privacy policy) because I appreciate the information they bring.

        I don’t believe that the NSA phone database provides me, or anyone else in America, with a commensurate benefit for the liberties we give up, based on simple statistics:

        Let’s say there are 250 million Americans who make an average of 5 phone calls a day. That’s approximately 445 billion phone calls each year. Assuming that the NSA’s “terrorist detection software” has a false positive rate of 0.01%, that still means that 44.5 million phone calls will be incorrectly identified as related to terrorist activity. Those 44.5 million calls could easily correspond to 4 million or more US citizens. By saying “I have nothing to hide”, you are saying that it’s OK for the government to infringe on the rights of potentially millions of your fellow Americans, possibly ruining their lives in the process. To me, the “I have nothing to hide” argument basically equates to “I don’t care what happens, so long as it doesn’t happen to me”. Maybe, if the NSA’s system turns up enough false-positives, it will serve as a much needed wake-up call to the apathetic middle-class.

        Let’s assume that there are 10 terrorists operating within the US, plotting 2 attacks per year. In order to detect these ten terrorists, the NSA’s “terrorist detection software” would have to be absurdly effective to stand even a remote chance. By saying “I have nothing to hide”, you are in fact giving up your right to privacy to gain nothing (or very nearly nothing) in return. You might argue that giving up your civil liberties is worth it if it prevents another tragedy like 9/11, but consider that you aren’t just giving up your liberties. You are giving up your neighbors, and your children’s, and your children’s children’s until someone takes a stand. If the NSAs collection of phone records were the only way to prevent even one terrorist attack per year, or even just one 9/11-level attack every decade, it might be worth it, but we currently have way of knowing how effective the program is.

        And all of this assumes that the government is 100% trustworthy. Who is to say what the government will do in the future with the powers you have so casually given away? Currently, the TSA’s “Watch List” has little to no oversight, making it impossible for the average citizen to determine the criteria for being selected, and making it difficult to get removed once you’ve been falsely added to the list. Currently, being on the list (but not an actual terrorist) typically only amounts to an inconvenience, but it could easily escalate into something much more serious.

        Perhaps Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” In this case, the temporary safety may only be an illusion.

      43. I believe, several years ago a wise man from the middle east once said… “Let him without sin cast the first stone”… Give me anyone and I’ll interpret their innermost details in any which way I like. That’s the danger.

      44. Geeb

        UK point of view here.

        We’ve signed up to the Human Rights Act, one item of which is the right to privacy. Therefore, the burden of proof lies with those who would seek to reduce my privacy.

        In order to prove to me that it’s worth passing a that would reduce my privacy, they would need to prove one of three things:

        1) There is no possibility of someone abusing this power,

        2) This law will definitely stop one or more 9/11-like atrocities,

        or

        3) The likelihood of this law stopping such an atrocity outweighs the risk of someone abusing this power.

        Obviously 1 & 2 are effectively impossible to demonstrate, so it’s got to be 3. This means that they have to overcome these hurdles:

        a) Governments are not immune to becoming institutionally corrupt (e.g. McCarthy era etc).

        b) Government workers are ordinary people, with ordinary failings. (e.g. UK council workers convicted of using town-centre security cameras to peek through windows into womens apartments.)

        c) Security services can be convinced they’re right, and take irrevocable and harmful actions, and then turn out to be wrong. (e.g. Jean-Charles de Menezes.)

        d) Computer monitoring creates a lot of false positives. (e.g. Cat Stevens not allowed to fly.)

        e) There are actually very, VERY few terrorists around. This makes the likelihood of finding anything useful against all the noise vanishingly small.

        I submit that it’s VASTLY more likely that such laws will hurt the innocent than that they will benefit the fight against terror.

        Sadly, BJ’s probably right: “I don’t care what happens, so long as it doesn’t happen to me.”

      45. JW

        To Annegb, consider the following, which may help you to raise some outrage. Your argument seems to be based on the “If it doesn’t directly affect me, I don’t care” principle. Now, suppose that someone was taking long-lens photos of you as you go down the backyard in your dressing gown. You wouldn’t know about this, therefore you don’t care. But, suppose that this photographer is, say, the owner of the local store, and because you don’t wear a gown of a particular color, or because you tie the belt in a certain way, he gives you worse service (okay, the analogy is a bit flawed – you might decide to go to a different store – but stay with it for a few moments). Your perfectly normal choices have affected your lifestyle.

        Now, consider that you *know* that someone in your neighbourhood has been taking pictures of people in their backyards, but you don’t know who or where. You don’t know whether you were one of his “models”. You then hear that the photographs have been seized by the police, who refuse to give up the evidence, because they show evidence of breaking an obscure law about public decency (wearing a dressing gown outdoors, for instance), and because of a new administration, this previously ignored law *may* be pursued. Wouldn’t you be concerned?

        These situations, and others that my come from the analogy, are why people are concerned, and why some are outraged.

        Hope this helps.

      46. JvD

        An old German folk song:

        “Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten?

        Sie fliehen vorbei, wie nachtliche Schatten;

        Kein Mensch kann sie wissen,

        Kein Jäger erschiesen

        Mit Pulver und Blei…

        Die Gedanken sind frei!”

        Translated:

        “Thoughts are free, who can betray them?

        They fly past like evening shadows;

        Nobody can know them,

        No hunter can shoot them

        With powder and lead…

        Thoughts are free!”

        Luckily technology does not yet exist that can intrude upon our private thoughts. Soon our minds may be the last refuge for truly free expressions of ourselves, and our existence will be all the sadder and less free for it.

        Seeing how often it is reported that government agencies and individual employees have messed up in their use of personal information (and often blatantly abused it), should we really be trusting governments to secretly snoop on us and correlate all the information they gather? How often do regimes change in this world, and how safe do we really feel that (relatively) benign regimes of today will not, in our lifetimes, be replaced by far less benign regimes that will use the already eroded state of our civil liberies and expectations of privacy as a springboard for far more intrusive, “1984”-like public monitoring and “remediation”?

        Are we really 100% confident that a future regime in the USA or Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, will not outlaw much of what is considered legal today, and take some form of remedial action against those who practiced such acts before new laws were imposed? Will the erosion of our civil liberties and expectation of privacy today not make their job so much easier tomorrow?

        How far are we really willing to allow the governments that WE elect to snoop into our private lives and affairs? When will they have gone too far? Worse still, when will it be too late to do anything about it?

        Universal surveillance and tyranny lead to one another.

        We should fight this one until the last while we still can, because the slope is indeed slippery and the future always uncertain. And the people of today are the guardians of the future.

      47. BJ:

        Assuming that the NSA’s “terrorist detection software” has a false positive rate of 0.01%, that still means that 44.5 million phone calls will be incorrectly identified as related to terrorist activity. Those 44.5 million calls could easily correspond to 4 million or more US citizens.

        Your hypothetical’s interesting, but I kind of stumble over this section here. Assuming that the NSA’s software has a false positive rate of 0.01% doesn’t tell us much about what happens next; it is extremely unlikely that the calls are simply monitored by computer, and anyone identified goes onto the DNF list. Far more likely is that the calls identified as potential positives are forwarded to another system to be re-evaluated, and those that survive that enhanced scrutiny, one imagines, would be forwarded to humint.

      48. JvD

        Simon,

        “Far more likely is that the calls identified as potential positives are forwarded to another system to be re-evaluated”

        You mean, you HOPE so…

        But do you really think that an actual person sits and listens to all the calls identified as positives (whether true or false)? Of course there’s automation in there, and one wonders how much quality control takes place. If one considers the US Government’s record for adhering to its own computer security policies, one must seriously wonder…

      49. Sean Farrell

        First, I doubt that massive surveillance is really effective. In Nazi Germany there still where at least 4 attempted assassinations on Hitler that did not work for misfortune and not of surveillance.

        The problem is that everybody dose by mistake or misfortune unwillingly an act that can be interpreted as being illegal and would be if you did it willingly. To state a personal example, I have browsed around for alternative music and video clips. It is a very legal to download music and videos from people who upload there stuff and give it to the public. Now some one hit child pornography in one clip and I downloaded it by mistake. The problem is, surveillance software will only see that I downloaded a illegal material and not that I threw it away in seconds and wrote the site owner about it. For him it is the same, software only sees that he has it there. I did go off the site.

        The inherent problem is that, I unwillingly committed an act that can very clearly be seen as illegal and I could end up in jail for a few years. Not forgetting that I could thrash my life. The problem is not what we have to hide, is what the law enforces wants to see.

        On the a rather lighter note, I am working am computer games, where cheating in online games is seen as one of the major problems. I have read a very interesting article and I believe in it, that more actions are perceived to bee cheating than they really are. A study has shown this very clearly. In that study students where taking a test and the supervisors where either told that students cheated regularly or that students never cheated. Those that where told that students cheated said far more often that they saw the students cheating than the others. If this is a problem in computer games, how do you think that it will be with real life.

        Just posting here could be perceived as anti-government actions. I don’t have a catchy phase, but a catch commercial. Put a naked person taking a shower in front of the camera. After a good while let a voice say from the off, “This could be you, protect your right for privacy.”

      50. Ricky Charlet

        Here is something I read somewhere once…

        “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

     

Originally Posted at Concurring Opinions

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum and International Privacy + Security Forum, annual events designed for seasoned professionals.

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