The “nothing to hide” response – what it should really say

When people object to surveillance they are told rather tritely that if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. I think that’s a bogus argument because it conveniently overlooks the dimension of power and control. But what I found interesting was the comment in “The spy in the coffee machine” (O’Hara & Shadbolt, 2008), where they say:

A response that would be correct, but somewhat less persuasive, would be “if you keep within the law, and the government keeps within the law, and its employees keep within the law, and the computer holding the database doesn’t screw up, and the system is carefully designed according to well-understood software engineering principles and maintained properly, and the government doesn’t scrimp on the outlay, and all the data are entered carefully, and the police are adequately trained to use the system, and the system isn’t hacked into, and your identity isn’t stolen, and the local hardware functions well, you have nothing to fear”.