Nothing to Hide? Really?
People like to spout this phrase all the time saying that the only people worried about privacy are criminals and someone up to no good. Is that the case though?
The definition of privacy that I like best is The right of an individual to choose what personal information is given to who and when. That is, I can choose to tell my wife about a rash on my butt, but wouldn't necessarily like my coworkers to know about it. It's not like I have to hide it, but I'd prefer only some people know.
People hide things all the time. Why do people have curtains? So they can choose when someone can see into their house, and when they can't. Why do people dress in dressing rooms instead of in the aisles at the store? Why do we have an issue when a stranger asks our daughter's name, where do we live, and what's her favorite candy?
It's a proven fact that there are more strangers than people you know. While there may be some percentage of complete strangers who will treat your private life with the same care and diligence as a close friend or family member would, another segment of those strangers won't. Another segment of those strangers will not just be careless with your data, they'll use it specifically against you for their benefit (identity thieves for example).
Unless you have some sort of list of who are the good people and who are the bad, there's nothing wrong with playing it safe and keeping your information to yourself. In fact, it's quite irresponsible to offer private information to just anyone.
Why should I care? I've done nothing wrong
Have you ever heard of a wrongful conviction case? That's where someone went to jail for a crime they didn't commit. Sometimes it's an innocent mistake, but sometimes politicians and prosecutors are under so much pressure to make someone pay that they're not very careful about who actually goes to jail.
What about all those victims of con artists or identity thieves? Did they do something wrong? Most of the time, the answer is no, but they still found their information used against them.
There are the people who leave product boxes for their new plasma TV out at the curb who come home one day to find that their house has been broken into and the TV (and other things) are gone. Or maybe they kept the family up-to-date with their vacation cruise and similarly came home to a ransacked house.
In all these cases, no one did anything wrong, but because the bad guys knew too much, they were able to victimize innocent people.
Nothing to Hide Retorts/Responses
Here is a set of some of the better retorts I've come up with. Note that in none of these cases have you done anything wrong so you have "nothing to hide", but you will (or should) keep it hidden anyway:
The "Avoiding Evil People" Retort
People don't come with forehead labels like "honest person", "hardworking citizen", "serial killer", "stalker/rapist", "kind fatherly gentlemen", "child abuser", or "con artist". 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 Mr. "Wants to cut you into little pieces and keep you in a jar on his mantle", you are putting yourself and your family in danger every time you are free and loose with information.
The "Let The Past Rest" Retort
Everyone has the right to let personal past mistakes be buried forever. If you long ago dated someone who eventually became a widely publicized serial killer, chances are you'd prefer people didn't know about it. Or let's just say that you became pregnant as a teen (or got someone pregnant), but lost the baby. It's a painful personal matter and no one's business. There are a probably a million other examples of things that you would rather not share and because they hurt no one and nothing (other than you), there's no reason why you should.
The "Others Could Destroy You" Retort
Corrupt lawyers, jealous co-workers, ex-lovers may all be motivated to paint you as someone you're not. With the right kinds of data, they can make you look like you are biased, predisposed, violent, or anything else for that matter. Most importantly, they can make you look guilty of something when you're not just because they proved that you lied about something, hid something, or flustered and confused you. The important factor here is that they have something to gain by bringing you down and there's no sense in handing them the knife they use to stab you with.
The "Data Travels Far" Retort
Large organizations (businesses, government) are, by definition, full of people. Some are nice, some are not. Even worse, information they hold has a habit of leaking away to even more people you don't know. When you give information to organizations like these, you have no idea how many people or what kind of people will end up in possession of it.
Most dangerous is the possibility of the various little bits of information being combined into a larger pool of data about you. With enough tidbits of data, it's possible to know far more about you than you originally intended. Businesses will use this data to profile you and exploit your weaknesses for money (e.g., the payday loan market). The government will use it to assess your worth and adjust your freedoms accordingly (think of the no-fly list or the Japanese internment camps of WWII).
The "Their Ignorance Will Hurt You" Retort
Let's say your father WAS a famous serial killer or you have a little-understood disease. Though your whole life, you've tried to be open about it hoping people wouldn't hold it against you, but you learned the hard way what ignorant fear will make people do (ex. Ryan White). After years of bullying and vandalism, you move to a new town and change your name hoping to start a new life.
Now, can we agree that there are tons of cases where fully innocent people with "nothing to hide" can, will, and should keep information private from friends, family, neighbors, and even police? Yes? Good.
So, once again, here is the loathsome phrase:
"Why does it matter? If you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide"