Nothing to hide, nothing to fear…

We would seem to be living through that old Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times”. Much is happening that, perhaps, really should be found on the pages of classic literature (or perhaps, more accurately maybe should stay on the pages of classic literature). There are certainly 2 opposing angles to consider, although perhaps not the 2 that would initially come to mind.

This wonderful cartoon impressively juxtaposes our dilemma, stuck between the dysfunctional promises of either George Orwell or Aldous Huxley.

So, 1984, Brave New World or a bit of both?

Orwell 1

Huxley 1

Carrying on this mini tour of our surveillance reality, it strikes me that there is a vast misunderstanding of one of the key arguments relevant to this situation, the “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear argument”.

There are plenty of deeply constructed and well written pieces on the web making the detailed arguments, a simple Google search will reveal them if you are interested. I am going to give you 3 links instead, that I hope shine a little light on the conundrum without getting into dense legal defence of essential rights and the structure of the rule of law.

First is this interview, from the New Yorker, with Brewster Kahle, the founder of the non profit Internet Archive. Kahle is one of the few people who has received a national security letter and is allowed to talk about it. He most certainly had nothing to hide, in this case he was simply the custodian of information the government wanted.

Did you tell your wife?


No! I couldn’t!


And is she now going, “What’s wrong? Why are you white as a sheet?”


I did go home that night and over dinner with my family, I said, “Ask me what it was I did today, and remember my answer.” So my son, who was, I don’t know, nine, or something like that, asked me, “Daddy, what did you do today?” And I said, “I can’t tell you.” That was the only thing I said, and then months and months and months went by.


Next we have this obnoxious video courtesy of Youtube. A somewhat visceral reminder that privacy is so much more than a tool for hiding egregious wrongdoing.


Finally, a delight. A wonderful piece of short film making, hypothesising a future that is really not too unbelievable.  This is relevant to today’s revelations of deep surveillance but is more valuable as a dystopian view of a future where privacy has become a deeply commercial entity.



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