Privacy arguments

Why care about Privacy

This is basically a collection of arguments of why privacy is important.

It isn’t meant to be a presentation, but rather a collection of arguments that can be used in other presentation. The reasons that make people care about privacy change a lot based on context. As such, we should adequate the arguments based on the audience.

Privacy = Freedom of Expression

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you
have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about
free speech because you have nothing to say.

– Edward Snowden

We are all part of a minority

We all do things that are very weird when judged by the majority

Doing things always privately raises less questions

If we only protect our privacy in certain situations, it might raise suspicions.

Why did you hide your … here? What were you doing?

Where as if you always hide what you are doing, that question can’t even be made

Privacy only when needed raises suspicion

Imagine that you typically browse the web with a regular web browser
but from time to time open the torbrowser. Doing that raises the
question of what you were doing during that browsing.

On the other hand, had you done it all though tor and that question would have never been raised.

The same apples to any other kind of activity that the adversary can sometimes see and other times not.

You need to care about privacy before you need it

We might consider ourselves quite unimportant to the point in which we would be a target of surveillance (in practive we all are target because of mass surveillance). But if we ever become someone who can be in a delicate position (journalist, politician, public figure, etc), if we didn’t care about our privacy, everything is already out there.

past ----------------------------> present -----------------------------> future
                     Oh sh*t. I better start protecting myself
 ----> before this point you can ---> | -------> you have privacy ------>
       consider it all out there                 beyond this point

You are Next

You might not be an important person today. But what if for some
reason you find yourself in a situation where you are a direct enemy
of the state or something you do (even though harmless) is now
considered illegal? Social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr,
Mahatma Gandhi, Neson Mandela, Jesus Crist. All where considered
enemies of the status quo and went to prision for that, despite the
non-violent nature of their cause.

The state tells you to trust it while it doesn’t trust you


Protect those who need it

Even if you don’t care about privacy, you should protect your own, to normalize privacy. Some individuals like whistle-blowers really need privacy and anonymity. The more people who exercise their right to privacy the harder it is to raise questions on why someone is keeping something private.

It’s not about having Something to Hide

It’s rather about having something to protect. When you are learning a new skill, you don’t want to show everybody how many times you fail until you can do it well. You need a place of your own, to experiment, create and learn.

All of the best kid’s books don’t have the parents around

Pippi, Harry Potter, you name it. Why is it that the best kid’s books
never have the parents around? Well, if the parents where around, the
adventures wouldn’t have never happened in the first place.

Kids need space to grow. Of course their parents should keep an eye,
but balance that will space for personal development and

Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear - Nazi Propaganda

Yes, the argument “Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear” originated from
nazi propaganda. So, please, rethink and question this argument that
seems to be so pervasive in everyone’s mind.

Playing poker

Imagine how playing poker would work if you were to be fully
transparent. This shows how privacy is important in order for us to
hide our own strategy. We might not want our boss to know we are
thinking of changing jobs, if we are in an abusive relationship we
might want to contact someone who might help us without letting the
abusive parner know about it.

Trust your neighbors

Many times we hear the expression “See something, say something”. It
passes a certain ideology that we live in an extremely unsafe
world. But if we want to live in society, we can’t always be
distrustful. It can only lead to more and more distrust.

The Stasi, in Eastern Germany, use to do that, and so did every
totalitarian government. Why? Because it divides people – “Divide to

You don’t trust your neighbor

If you are fearful of your neighbors, you won’t ally with them and so,
you are less likely to have political agency.

Your neighbor doesn’t trust you

If your neighbor doesn’t trust you, he/she can act as an informant
about your “suspicious” activities even in some cases going so far as
violating your privacy to check if you are doing nothing wrong.

As a direct consequence, you’ll start conforming and distrusting
everyone else thus leading to the propagation of the cycle.

No Privacy creates Cognitive Load

Think about it: is it sane to be always thinking about the
consequences of our actions from a reputation point of view? Or would
we rather not having to think much about that when we are in a private
place, allowing us to be ourselves?

Because that what you’ll be doing if there is no privacy at all.

On the other hand, When you’re at home alone or in the intimacy of
someone you trust you’ve got nothing to worry about.

It’s not pracy that makes you paranoyed. It’s its lack that make you.

Partial Privacy is NO Privacy

If something has the chance of leaking information under certain
circumstances, you can no longer trust it.

What would it be like if you knew that when you went to your doctor,
he/she might comment about your illness with his/her family? Or
imagine the same with your lawyer talking to the police?

Would you have the same trust? Or would you censor yourself?

The same happens when someone proposes a system which gives access to
the authorities even with judicial mandate. If you know there is the
chance of it not being private, you have to assume that someone will
know be accessing it.

The Government is made of people

Law enforcement is not composed by super-humans. Humans have flaws and
will abuse power invitably. What makes someone trustful enough to be
reading people’s emails and looking at private pictures? Your data is
as protected as the least scrupulous individual in the government who
might hold something against you.

We know through Edward Snowden that people in his office (at the NSA
contractor) where looking at nudes of ex-girlfriends though the NSA’s
spying programs and the FBI investigated Martin Luther Kind to
incriminate him of anything.

This begs the question: Who watches the watchers?

The crime time-machine

You have committed crimes. They were harmless but you did them.

  • Have you ever crossed a red light?
  • Have you every downloaded or watched copyrighted content without authorisation (piracy).
  • Have you ever taken drugs in a country where that is illegal?

Retroactive policing is the name for this. (Recommended reading)

Freedom of Association

In principle you are free to associate with whoever you want. But
because of mass surveillance and surveillance capitalism, governments
and companies know your whole social graph (aka. who your talk to,
your friends, family, etc). When someone is under investigation, it is
likely that you will also be on their list of possible

Although this also happened before mass surveillance, it was
much harder to know someone’s connections and actually required effort
from the government. Now, with access to certain databases, you get
that with one click and without raising suspicion about that.

So, this begs the question: how can you have freedom of association if
you get implicated just because you know someone?

“We kill people based on metadata”

Famous quote by the USA general (source)

Chilling Effects / Social Cooling

The value of information is context-dependent

Netherlands Jew case

When the nazis came into the Netherlands, because the country kept
track of people’s religion it was easy for them to find out who were
the jews and where they were. Because of this, the Netherlands’ jewish
population was one of the most affected.

A safe space

Privacy gives you a room to be yourself, without fear of
judgement. You need that to be sane and grow.

They know you better than your friends, family and even yourself

Where where you two days ago?
How many times did you sleep with your partner?

How do we tolerate having governments and companies knowing answers
about ourselves that not even us know the answer? Doesn’t it make you
feel naked?

Information is power

Tyraints know this. When someone knows who you are, what you do at all
times, who your friends are, what are your inner most thoughts and all
the things you’ve done wrong, they can predict what you’ll do and
position themseves accordingly. Can you really play chess against
someone who reads your mind?

Insurance Companies

You medical data and habits can be used against you. Algorithms
blindly aggregate people into classes and establish correlations
between certain activities.

For example: they determine a relationship between people who buy lots
of meat with a high likelihood of heart disease, which seems to make
sense. So, if insurance company or data vroker manages to get a
hold of your purchasing history, they can make your insurance premium
go up, because you are at a higher risk. But in fact that meat is not
for you but for your dogs, rather. You will be impacted by this
algorithmic discrimination and there is nothing you can then do. The
only choice is to conceal your information such that those companies
don’t have it in the first place.

Machines Make Mistakes

Machines make mistakes, but some humans have faith in technology and
believe that it is 100% secure and doesn’t fail. One just needs to ask
anyone in cybersecurity to have a confirmation that that is not the

Future employers

In certain regions where privacy laws are not very strong nor
enforced, it is common practice for employers to view people’s online
social media accounts. Would you want that information to be in the
hands of a company, knowing that what you have posted online years ago
can determine if you get a job rather than you qualities and skills?
Facebook is now even attributing people a credibility score based on
their interactions with the platform. That score can then be used to
inform employers if people are “trustworthy”. Whatever that means.

It’s a lost battle

Do you know how many people lost their lives so that we in the western
societies and others around the world could have fundamental Human

Please, consider those rights precious and treat them well. If you
believe any of them is at risk or no longer exists, fight for it! Make
sure the next generations can have them even more that you did.

One thing is for sure: Rights are easier to take than to give.

Stolen Identity

If someone steals your identity, they can drain your account or make
your life meserable. Protecting your privacy defends you against that.

Out of your hands, there is nothing you can do about it

Once information about yourself is on the internet, there is no taking
back. Doesn’t that scare you.

Robbed home

It might not be a good idea to be public about your where are at all
times. It is quite easy to use that information to when you are not at

Manipulation: don’t be nudged your whole life

Think of your closest friends. They know how to best talk to you about
something because they know what you like. Now, advertisers can alo
nudge you by presenting you commercials in a way that that is so
tailored to you that you can’t say no. But they are not your
friends. They don’t have the best intentions for you.

Data collected on you will eventually be used against you

It’s inevitable. With information you can judge. Without it you simply lack that
ability. There are cases in which even personal devices can be used against the
people who were wearing them. There a man was
charged with arson thanks to the data on the pacemaker…

Similar to the jews example.

No, invading privacy does not prevent crime

Quite the contrary, it fuels identity fraud.

Surveillance only attempts to solve syptoms, not the real problems


He said to me “If you see a child drowning in the river, what would you do?” To which I obviously answered I would jump in and try to save the child.

He then asked “What if when you rescue the child you see more children, more than you can possibly rescue, coming from upstream and drowning?”. This frustrated me, obviously I wanted to save all the children but it was impossible - there would be too many.

He then asked “Do you not think it would be better to investigate upstream as to why so many children are falling in to the river in the first place?”