Law Abiding Citizens Have Nothing to Fear

So says William Hague, England’s Foreign Secretary. “Only terrorists, criminals and spies should fear secret activities of the British and US intelligence agencies.”

I appreciate the challenge of collecting accurate intelligence and connecting the dots. It’s the 21st century and the bad guys no longer hang out in shadowed doorways and use dumpsters as drop boxes. Yet the laws and promises to prevent misuse are weak at best. With vast surveillance on citizens – including supposedly privileged communications between attorneys/clients and doctors/patients – having come to light, as well as the politically based targeting by the IRS, we now know that the stage has moved significantly closer toward being set in a way that will allow for a much larger threat to arise.

I can’t speak to how things are with our friends across the pond, but here in the States, it is impossible to get through the day without unwittingly going afoul of some law. Since there are no law abiding citizens – just those who haven’t been caught or are not yet “persons of interest” – we are all criminals. All of us have everything to fear.

Updates

2013.06.10.1 – Ah, and then there is this little gem added to the stage from the SCOTUS: The Court upheld Maryland’s DNA Collection Act.

2013.06.10.2 – John Cook has the statistical perspective: A statistical problem with “nothing to hide”

One problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is that it assumes innocent people will be exonerated certainly and effortlessly. That is, it assumes that there are no errors, or if there are, they are resolved quickly and easily.

The argument also assumes that the falsely accused individual is made whole again. If this happens at all, it takes a very long time. The consequences of having one’s identity stolen, for example, are not washed away with a couple of phone calls. Imagine this when the stakes involve national security. The damage would likely be irreparable.

2013.06.10.3 – Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere – Interesting article that illustrates how this issue is less about the data and the analysis and more about the real potential for it’s misuse and abuse.

2013.06.11.1 – A clear example of the selective application of law: The IRS Can’t Plead Incompetence

For the next 14 months they heard nothing about an investigation. By August 2012, the NOM was filing Freedom of Information Act requests trying to find out if there was one. The IRS stonewalled. Their “latest nonresponse response,” said Mr. Eastman, claimed that the law prohibiting the disclosure of confidential tax returns also prevents disclosure of information about who disclosed them.

2013.06.11.2 – ‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy (H/T Instapundit)

In this short essay, written for a symposium in the San Diego Law Review, Professor Daniel Solove examines the nothing to hide argument. When asked about government surveillance and data mining, many people respond by declaring: “I’ve got nothing to hide.” According to the nothing to hide argument, there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private. The nothing to hide argument and its variants are quite prevalent, and thus are worth addressing. In this essay, Solove critiques the nothing to hide argument and exposes its faulty underpinnings.

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