22
Sep
07

If you have nothing to hide, you have plenty to fear

Those of us who express reservations about ubiquitous surveillance and personal information-gathering are generally told that only those nasty criminals or nefarious terrorists have anything to fear from the evaporation of privacy. After all, we’re told, if we have nothing to hide, why should we hide at all?

This is why:

Benjamin Robinson, a 40-year old government agent from Oakland, CA within the Department of Commerce, has been charged with illegally accessing a Homeland Security Database in order to stalk his ex-girlfriend and her family. His indictment by a federal grand jury in San Jose this week was in connection with allegations that he accessed the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) over 163 times to track the woman’s movements.

The big fear is usually a Stasi-like police state (or, in the case of ubiquitous corporate data gathering, a William Gibson-esque megalocorporate plutocracy), but even the “little” fears like this one are plenty frightening enough. You may be willing to give up your privacy to “the Government”, trusting that it won’t really turn vicious and vindictive in your lifetime — but are you really willing to give up your privacy to every government bureaucrat, employee, and contractor? Are you willing to bet that not a single individual with access to your data will sell it to make a quick buck (or pay off a nagging debt), or store it on an unsecured (and easily stolen) laptop, or even use it to fuck with you for the sheer misanthropic power rush?

(Note to self: don’t date government employees.)

Related commentary at Donkelephant:

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