In "I've Got Nothing to Hide" and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy, Daniel Solove discusses the issues involved with privacy violations. He does a rather thorough job, although it may be a little too objective for some people. There's just not a lot of drama there.

He discusses that, too.

Here are the 5 main points I took away:

  1. "Privacy" is a vague term. It's not easy to define, and years of discussion haven't made it any clearer. So instead of trying to nail down a definition, let's come up with a description instead. That way we can address the actual problems, instead of ignoring them or clumping them together while we fight over the definition.

    With that in mind, here's a list of problems that could be considered "privacy" problems:

    • Information Collection
      • Surveillance
      • Interrogation
    • Information Processing
      • Aggregation
      • Identification
      • Insecurity
      • Secondary Use
      • Exclusion
    • Information Dissemination
      • Breach of Confidentiality
      • Disclosure
      • Exposure
      • Increased Accessibility
      • Blackmail
      • Appropriation
      • Distortion
    • Invasion
      • Intrusion
      • Decisional Interference
    We can at least agree that these are all problems, even if we think some of them should be filed under a different heading. Personally, I think "Privacy Problems" is pretty good.
  2. Privacy isn't necessarily about benefit to an individual. Privacy for individuals is a benefit to society. When you allow society to intrude on the privacy of individuals, you're hurting the society.

  3. Privacy problems aren't generally dramatic. They involve power shifts, or preventing behaviors (even legal ones), which can be very difficult to quantify. It's still important; perhaps more so, since it actually damages society.

  4. When someone says, "I have nothing to hide," they're only thinking of "surveillance" as a privacy problem. Warrantless wiretapping (like the NSA actions) actually causes several of the problems in the list above. Whether you have something to hide or not, those actions are damaging society and should be dealt with.

  5. "Dealing with" it isn't necessarily stopping it. A limitation would be just fine; for instance, requiring the wiretappers to justify their surveillance to an impartial third party, such as a judge.

All of this makes perfect sense to me. Comments?