Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

Edward Snowden Says Privacy is the Most Important Right

edward-snowdenEdward Snowden, the American NSA whistleblower, who’s currently living in Russia, joined via a webcam a Q&A for a screening in New York City of the new Oliver Stone-directed film “Snowden,” about Snowden’s life and his decision to leak NSA documents in 2013 exposing the extent of government surveillance on private citizens.

“The common argument we have — if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear — the origins of that are literally Nazi propaganda,” Snowden said. (Note: While the quote is widely attributed to Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, its exact origins appear to be unclear.) “So when we hear modern politicians, modern people repeating that reflexively without confronting its origins, what it really stands for, I think that’s harmful,” he continued.

Snowden also said that the “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” argument “doesn’t make sense.” He believe privacy is in fact the “fountainhead” of rights, from which other freedoms flow.

“Because privacy isn’t about something to hide. Privacy is about something to protect. That’s who you are,” he said. “Privacy is baked into our language, our core concepts of government and self in every way. It’s why we call it ‘private property.’ Without privacy you don’t have anything for yourself.”

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Categories: Thoughts About Privacy

1 reply

  1. The problem I have with the “nothing to hide” argument is that others get to decide just what that “nothing” is. And it can change overnight. I might have “nothing to hide” today, but the acceptability of my should-be-private information can be reversed with the stroke of a pen or a sea change in social mores. My nothing could become something very quickly.

    Just ask the people who suffered during the McCarthy era. Young men who attended a boring meeting so they could spend time with a young woman found themselves blacklisted, unemployable and in front of an inquisition years later.

    We all have something to hide. Most of us just don’t know what that something is yet.


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