You have nothing to hide? Prove it.

August 16, 2009 at 7:31 PM (Uncategorized)

I hate it when someone uses the phrase “I have nothing to hide.”

That is a fantastically stupid thing to say. It is one of those seemingly clever, snarky little quips that almost sounds like it means something. It is what someone says when they have lost the argument but are not honest enough to admit it.

The statement is a strawman. It is only vaguely related to the debate at hand and is used in order to change the subject. Rather than an honest debate over privacy, now there is a veiled accusation that perhaps you have done something embarrassing and don’t want anyone to know about it.

It is similar to a violation of Godwin’s law – it derails the debate and everyone involved forgets the fact that no real argument has been made against privacy.

The next time you run into this strawman, there is a very simple way to respond to it and turn it around:

Person A: I have nothing to hide.

Person B: Then print out your home address and a daily schedule showing at which times of day the building will be empty. Copy that information onto 100 fliers and then staple them to utility poles all over town.

Do not accept any of their excuses or their attempts to weasel out of it. Whatever it was you were debating no longer matters – the conversation now is about why this person does not want to post that information in public. They and their growing discomfort are now the subject of the debate, which serves them right for attempting to derail the conversation with nonsense in the first place.

Either they admit they are wrong and acknowledge that some things are simply none of anyone’s business and that it is up to each person to decide where that line is for their own information or they reveal themselves to be a hypocrite and discredit everything they were trying to say.

The most likely outcome will be that they simply vanish from the conversation altogether, which only demonstrates to everyone that they have lost the argument and are too embarrassed to continue.

In the unlikely event the person goes out and actually posts the fliers, it doesn’t matter. It simply means that this is a person who will not change their mind without first learning a painful lesson and that you were never going to convince them with logic anyway. Simply wish them luck and suggest that they may want to double-check that their homeowner’s insurance is up-to-date.

To everyone else who may have been following the discussion without becoming involved, that person will appear to be a fool. Those are the people you can convince and the other person’s stubbornness only makes that easier.

If you are one of the people who feel that privacy doesn’t matter and feels the need to say so in a comment, that is fine. Before you make that comment, you will first need to post a few fliers around town.

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  1. twocupslater said,

    Privacy doesn’t matter.


  2. Kylyssa Shay said,

    I think a degree of privacy is a basic human right and that anyone who would hand it over without objection is behaving foolishly. I’m not hiding anything but I have much I wish to keep private.

    Lack of privacy is what I hated most about hospitalizations I’ve endured. Lack of privacy is what is so dehumanizing about institutions like medical care facilities for elderly people.

    If someone objects to invasions of privacy such as voluntary police searches or airport security strip searches, people bring out your straw man of “why not let them search you if you have nothing to hide?” People seem so willing, eager even, to give away their rights in the name of “safety” or “security”.

    You don’t have to be hiding something if you wish to preserve your privacy, personal space, and dignity.

    And yeah, anyone who uses the “I have nothing to hide” bit is doing themselves a disservice. It’s a poorly thought out desperation move.

  3. scary azeri said,

    Nothing to do with this posting. Just to say noticed you on twitter from one of your followers, came here, liked your writing, liked the fact you are an atheist and just generally liked everything. :)
    Wanted to say hi. and ask- are you a woman or a man? somehow I missed that from the “about” section. :)

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