Open Ballot: Is privacy only for those with something to hide?


Many Linux distributions, including Fedora and Ubuntu (on the alternative installation, at any rate), provide an installation option to encrypt your hard disk. This kind of full disk encryption has become so good and widely available that at least one academic paper has argued that it "can significantly hamper digital investigations, potentially preventing access to all digital evidence in a case." We all want the police to be able to do their jobs effectively, and since powerful encryption is causing them problems, why should this kind of technology continue to be available to anybody? If you've got nothing to hide, why should you care about encrypting your data?

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Definitely Not

Aside from protecting your data so you don't get exploited, impersonated, etc, every person has an inherent right to privacy. This should be fought for and held dear! What I do, so long as it's legal, is my business and anyone who wants to intrude onthat can bugger off - the big problem, in today's society, is people are so willing to give privacy up for "free" stuff. I think the time may well be not too far off when people rue having done this. On the subject of law-enforcement, there do need to be (and are) legal precedents to request access to that data, but if we ban high-level encryption technologies it could be all too easy to slip into a "Big-Brother" state. A good parallel is the discussions going on currently about the press - yes, they have done some heinous things, but many people who revile such acts aren't against a large clamp-down and respect how good it is that we have such a free press in the UK.

Encryption hampers abuse too

Encryption hampers abuse and potential (i.e. unthought of future) abuse, probably far, far more than it hampers legitimate law enforcement.

Simple examples include the abuse of personal data on old disks you throw out or sell, laptops and computers that are stolen, and computers where people obtain physical access.

In the extreme, there are people in violent relationships and people with controlling partners, there are people sharing properties with creepy fellow students, there are people who have children who play pranks and there are people whose friends access data without thinking of the consequences. Even innocuous-seeming data like location, friendships and personal photographs can be misused.

To play a simple role-playing game, imagine if your current partner (or anyone else with access to your machine) became an ex-partner and decided to destroy your reputation, take control of all your assets, take custody of your children and wreck every relationship in your life. Is your hard disk completely clear of anything that would damage you?

On the other side, is there any criminal whose crimes exist solely on their encrypted hard disk and produce absolutely no other forensic evidence? Are you more frightened by that criminal, or more frightened by the potentially abusive person in your own life?

Anyone who says that is an idiot

As the line in Mad Men goes,
people's deepest conflicts come down to what they want vs what's expected of them.

For some, the conflict may be minor, for others, its greater, but to say that any pretenses between the two should be abolished is to be socially retarded.

Most people should want to

Most people should want to keep their data safe and huge numbers have laptops, one would hope they have some sort of security.

I thought that the US authorities insisted on backdoor access to encryption??

I like the comment from the link "*Note that in some cases the words 'criminal' and 'government' can be used interchangeably."

Not at all

No I don't think people encrypt their hard drives because they have something to hide, it more has to do with the fact they don't want their data to be taken from them. Whatever that data might be, I wouldn't want someone else getting my photos, music, videos, unless if I gave it to them.

If people were all nice, yes

Surely if you're suggesting privacy is only for those who have something to hide, you would not mind having your telephone tapped and having everybody in the whole world able to listen to your conversations. Sure, this would probably be fine if you weren't particularly bothered about privacy and people weren't too nosy. However, we know from celebrity scandals and many other examples that there are people who abuse any power they have. There are plenty of people in the world, stalkers, journalists (not you, I mean the tabloid type) and advertisers, who will use any information about you that they have access to, with or without your permission.

If the judicial system was swift and effective in stopping and preventing such cases from happening, all would be fine. But really, isn't it just simpler to NOT have your phone tapped?


I would assume we all have something to hide.


First of all, like Semi-Anonymous pointed out - everyone has something to hide :-)

But apart from that, "privacy" does not imply maliciousness or breaking the law in any way. You have the right to lock your door, you have the right to put your documents in a safe. And anyone breaking those barriers that you put up over *your own information* is in fact /breaking/ the law.

I don't see why this should be any different with information stored in digital form.

Respect the law

Let me first start by stating I'm not a criminal, and have never broken the law. Therefore, I would be more than happy to help the Police with an investigation and show them my files if they really needed to see them. This, however, would be unlikely to happen for the above statement.

The more likely event of me losing my laptop, or it being stolen, however, could mean my data is available to the person who has got my laptop, and then anyone they could sell it (or my data) too. There's nothing particularly exciting on the laptop, but it is part of my life. And if I choose to share that, it will be on my own terms.

Like free software, my life is all about choice. I have nothing to hide, but I prefer to choose with whom I share it.

Tin foil hats at the ready...

The assumption being that the state is always doing the right thing?

What happens when the police aren't on your side?

What happens when you're a citizen of some unpleasant, oppressive state?

What happens when you become the focus of unwanted government attention because you've taken part in a protest of some sort?

It's your data. If you value it you need to protect it. Encrypt it and back it up!

Besides, how else do you stop your other half from stumbling across your pr0n stash?

missing good arguments

> Aside from protecting your data so you don't get exploited, impersonated, etc, every person has an inherent right to privacy.

You provided no arguments, just a belief.

The problem is that the advocates of privacy (I treat myself as one of them) should provide more explicit reasons why to protect your data when you are doing nothing immoral.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any newsworthy reasons yet.

I see a funny paralel here with "Incognito Mode" in web browsers. Google Chrome help explains incognito mode as a great tool to search for christmas presents on a family shared computer. I believe less than 1% of Incognito mode usages are christmas related. 99% is porn.

let's get naked...

Hey, you there...yes, you with your clothes on. What are you hiding under those...those rags that enable you to hide bad stuff?!?!?!?
Take them off RIGHT NOW.

Dear Diary...

My daughter has a diary. She is 8. It has a lock on it.

Could I open it if I wanted to? Certainly. Either a paperclip or failing that, a good hacksaw would do the job.

So why don't I? She obviously has things to hide or it wouldn't have a lock?

Respect. Thats why.

I respect her right to privacy. If she was 15 and I suspected she was doing drugs or spending the night with boys, it'd be another thing....

But right now, I have no reason to believe her need for privacy is anything I have to worry about.

People have the need and the right to keep their information to themselves. It doesn't mean they're doing anything illegal.

Encrypted does not equate to illegal.

Google porn mode.

Dear Sir,
Whilst shopping on-line for a present for my wife I stumbled upon a problem. Knowing my wifes love of large fluid receptacles with handles and integrated spouts I 'googled' massive jugs. Imagine my surprise when I accidentally clicked on images and safe surf off.....

"Why should this kind of

"Why should this kind of technology continue to be available to anybody?"

Because you can't uninvent anything.

Apple could claim it infringes one of their patents and get the courts to stop people using it.


only if going to the loo constitutes "something to hide"

a small price to pay

With people hacking into phones, stealing identities/ corporate secrets, or "Photoshop"-ing digital pictures to embarrass others, encryption of our important information seems a reasonable precaution. I'm surprised how casual some governments have been with data (wikileaks) and look at the results: even they pay a very real price.

But let's make it clear that your question involves a sacrifice: hundreds of millions of people should willingly cede their freedom. That sacrifice is "needed" because encryption made law enforcement more problematic for a few cases (how many cases do you think per year?)...and your talking low level crimes as well. If there is a national security problem the government has the means to nail your hide to the wall. An encrypted drive won't save the bad guy.

These problems are small price to pay for your/our liberty.
And +1 to heiowge...

historically reasons?

30 years ago: 10 MB, data all business related
20 years ago: 100 MB, data business and some private letters
10 years ago: 2000 MB, business, private letters, some photos, some emails
now 2TB: all private photos, private videos, credit card bills, internet banking details, telephone bills, all online conversations, access data to dozens of digital services, etickets, schedules, timetables, medical diagnosis, contact addresses, notes and every single piece of text you ever wrote...
future: 100MB, and happily hand all the other stuff to the cloud?!

The internet never forgets, and if something like the sexy picture of your wife took last summer holiday at the beach in a tipsy moment gets once online, even the children of your children might enjoy granny's vintage pictures....

Not me, but...

I'm not doing anything illegal - but others might do so if they get their hands on my data.

It's about respecting others

Everyone should, in principle, be allowed to decide what personal information they wish to be published about them. There are certain situations - conflicts of interest, certain types of criminal behaviour - where this principle needs to be relaxed.

But it is disrespectful to start from the position that nothing is private; it is the social equivalent of stripping someone naked.

In related news:

Officials are investigating the legitimacy of public information-obscuring technologies such as curtains, locks and opaque or sound-dampening materials. Several members of the political community suggest that privacy is only for those with something to hide. Thus, such devices should be reserved for top-secret organizations - including, for instance, all government departments.

My computer is not a public toilet...

...where every body can come in and do their stuff as they please. Excuse me, but my stuff are my stuff and prying into my encrypted disks saying "you should have no fear if you have nothing to hide" sounds just like a dirty-minded doctor saying "I need to inspect your whole body with my hands, miss" ...

encryption = threat to law enforcement, what B.S!

The nation-state is dying! If you think closely about it, the whole thing is absurd... laws are written by "representatives" and then enforced on to the rest... geez The problem with "representatives" writing laws is that they are seldom truely "representing" the people... at best they write stupid laws, at worst they write laws so that no body else can write laws!

I dont want to have laws written by a group of people insisting that they have "authority", I want to see laws being written by the masses - wiki style - Now that's a progressive society

This thing, called the nation-state, and its 1% of people having "authority" over 99% of the people, is getting more and more similar to colonialism/imperialism, except that it is the 1% turning against its own people... I say let it die, it does not belong in this age... let us move on to "Post Nation-State"

Using the same logic cloths

Using the same logic cloths would hamper the police and who knows what you have under there. You know what passwords really hurts their work flow, front doors probably do too. The world is moving closer and closer to an Orwellian society where all your hopes and dreams about a private life has long wilted and died.

Not to say there isn't hope, they will slowly drain it from you until you conform though.

Privacy is for Everyone

I am not a criminal, but I will never let a uniformed police officer into my house without a warrant. We have a right to privacy, whether that makes their job harder or not, and we ought to use that right whenever we can.

Despite what some fools are

Despite what some fools are purported to say, having something to hide doesn't imply criminal behaviour at all. Ever organised a surprise for someone? Perhaps a birthday party? How would you feel if this information was freely available for anyone to come along an spoil that surprise.

Do you want every part of your anatomy on a public database so that everyone can mock your pee-pee size, or see your third nipple, or cesarean section scars?

Perhaps you actually participated in criminal behaviour but it was long enough ago that the world has forgotten about it? Would you be happy for your local newspaper to publicise your misdeeds?

Anyone who claims they have nothing to hide is a liar,

I have absolutely no reason

I have absolutely no reason for security, but the business practice security-wise of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, etc, cause me not to wish to use any of them. And, in most cases, these companies state themselves (while hidden in the terms of service) that they sell data. I see this as being taken advantage of. And besides, cracking unsecured data transfers is incredibly easy now (not to mention some secured transfers), and what about business data? That is surely something to hide, along with bank accounts. Security, encryption and privacy are all very important and need to be constantly used and improved rather than being ignorant to how susceptible to hacking (and to amateur users, targeted phishing is incredibly successful)they really are.


I think privacy should be a right,but we should protect ourselves first, and be taught how to.

The problem is that most people are ignorant on how to.

Everybody creates online accounts everywhere. Ask yourself how many online accounts you created? you don't remember ;-)... Most of the time you spread your own data and open yourself to unknown website/people. Isn't it crazy!

I think that people should be educated on protecting themselves. It's impossible to regulate the internet.

I m sorry if i am a bit of topic but it may answer your question somehow...

Not a simple issue

Years ago, I was hired by a civil court judge to list all CAD-related files on a defendant's computer as evidence in some litigation between parties. I spent a week with a bailiff listing all CAD drawings and folders on the computer and since it was Windows 98, the utter lack of security or encryption made this much easier.

Big Brother may be watching us but we regular folk still have arguments and differences of opinion on matters that may require a court of law to be involved. Data encryption may be deemed as an obstruction of justice.

Scary thought really...


Privacy is for people with something to hide and everyone has somthing to hide. I hide my passport number from criminals. I hide over-18s films from children and I hide my bankcard PIN from everyone but my wife. In other words, that's technically a yes but essentially a no.


Speaking as an operative for various government secret sections; I'd like to point out that encyption makes my job really hard. I'm here to protect you people from nuclear warfare. Do you know how hard that is to do if they used whole disk encryption on the computer that controlled Metal Gear?

Think about it, you would see a whole lot more MISSION FAILED!


How long until this becomes a persistent argument against encryption if you encrypt then you're helping terrorism. That or paedophilia.

kinda perplexed/hapless. I wonder if it shows

Some very bright people commenting; reading the above was an exercise in relief and a reminder that sanity has not been drilled out of humanity...yet.

@matell who wrote:
***You provided no arguments, just a belief.

The problem is that the advocates of privacy (I treat myself as one of them) should provide more explicit reasons why to protect your data when you are doing nothing immoral.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any newsworthy reasons yet.

I see a funny paralel here with "Incognito Mode" in web browsers. Google Chrome help explains incognito mode as a great tool to search for christmas presents on a family shared computer. I believe less than 1% of Incognito mode usages are christmas related. 99% is porn.***

The fact that you're confused about 'morality'...IS...the newsworthy reason you're looking for. 'Morals' are 'values' imprinted onto defenceless and impressionable children by the creepiest entities this world will ever see; junkies caught up in a horrifying cycle that is the imprinting of impressionable children into thinking it’s in their interests to imprint impressionable children. And the misery and shame and these hilarious emotional inventions - which aren’t really so funny as horrifying - the insanity just rolls along, almost self-perpetuating.

Your morals are your morals, if you want them to be. But then you did not select them from a catalog. In some 'cultures' (you know, those virtual 'realities'), girls are married off at nine years old and raped - quite literally - for their entire lives. It is immoral, for nine year old girls to disagree. The beatings might stop - how’s this for a killer hypothetical? Is that a good or a bad thing, in a vacuum? The beatings stopping, I mean.

Whenever I find myself discussing something like this, I can’t shake the feeling I’m getting sucked in. Could the vacuum be the distraction that is the implausible suggestion that we are debating a 'issue' (full disk encryption) that's genuinely being decided upon? I think we come in at a later, more insulting, post-decision stage - this is how it's always seemed to me. I think that’s how Power operates. I mean, I’ve never had very much and when I did I dropped it pretty quickly. I have no need to bend the ‘free’ will of humans - if I fail to convince you that our best interests are Y but more importantly, mutual? Then my arguments must have been pretty terrible. Or maybe your free will has sailed. It’s nothing to get worked up about. And the thing about power is, you kind of have to get worked up about it. No, I’m afraid it’s as simple as that. I’m being a little coy but I have dabbled in that horrifying game, and I dunno - I mean, no one likes to talk about these things, but I’m not ashamed. Just a game, right? It’s crazy, I played some silly little games with some pretty girls that wouldn’t have given me the time of day on any day of the six years prior, and suddenly I’m Brad Pitt. I was surprised as well. It was great! No really.
I was almost giddy. So this was power, I thought; my mind racing. I had power. And what was I doing with it?

Raping girls? I tricked them, no? Exploited a - gaping - disparity in intelligence. It was all an illusion, and not even a particularly convincing one. I just played back their preference for unhappiness (wanting what one cannot have, just because one cannot have it? not wanting it when you get it? This is more common than anyone wants to believe). Maybe 'rape' isn't the right word. But I didn't make convincing arguments. Actually, I didn't make an argument at all, really. But it was creepy beyond belief and pure exploitation / coercion. This is different in ways I guess, from the physical. But this whole "free will" argument has creeped me out since I was a child who wasn't allowed to have any.

And there I was 15 years later, taking it away. I was a little horrified. Seems I had a problem with being convincing, so I took shortcuts. Maybe you think I’m being ridiculous, I sometimes do; this is a decade ago after all. And this stuff goes on constantly, literally. Not quite as technically 'brilliant', manipulative or executed quite as clinically I imagine; but at its core this is the game of Life, I think. As we're presently living it.

Everyone gets raped. Happiness has become interchangeable with pain relief. There's a huge difference, a tragic one.

And what does this have to do with encryption? Isn’t this stuff more relevant? Disk encryption hmm. They’re vaguely nervous about the 'threat' they’re injecting into the global discussion that is initiated and moderated by their media whether we like it or not. They flick their fingers, We jump. They yell war, We die. They tell us to be afraid, then give us the protection that we need.

For free.

Really? I feel we should be talking about good kids getting confused into tricking girls into falling for their own dumb games of coy, and walking away with the feeling everyone got raped. It seems more relevant than free encryption. A father up there seemed to think he might have a problem when his daughter is 15. I don’t know, of course; but from where I’m from, that would be really sweet. 12, 13 - by 15? Whatever parents want to believe I guess.

The girls aren’t ‘bad’. Just dull. It's hardly their fault. They just want their freedom! Independence? It’s a free country, right? I’ve heard slaves talk about their Bill of Rights which is what Guantanamo was closed years ago in embarrassment about? What? I don’t think so buddy. He promised!

Slaves quote their rights and I’ve tried to keep a straight face. No one wants to see ostensibly grown men cry in public. But you have the right to remain silent. I think that’s about it?

“No comment.” Pfft. That’s a really dumb idea, if you’re innocent. You’ll look hella guilty. If you’re guilty, why are you being encouraged to ‘game’ the system? They’re going to have the capacity to nail your balls to the wall, if that’s what they want to do. These laws, and statutes and rules and legislative pieces full of pork and it’s just more insulting crap isn't it? When push comes to shove they shove rationality goes out the window. Historically, chances are you’d help them.

It doesn’t matter who you are. These guys are cowboys and warlords of the post-Westphalia world and it’s terrifying. You could be future President of France but no. Suddenly you’re not. No evidence, just nauseating media. It’s all you need. Au revoir, remnants of liberty fraternity and what was that other one? Oh yeah. How awkward. I thought she was going to come down after the French got confused and got in the middle of tyrants killing you...and you. But Freedom Fries were also cool.

This is probably too long. Too revealing. Borderline incoherent. Apologies for any or all if applicable, but this disk encryption. I started writing something and just felt like I was insulting myself. I mean, are you going to beat them? Is your daughter? I think you gotta get busy, teaching kids how to act in their own best interests. It's their only shot, because Dads are cool but they talk tough and put their feet down and the game theory plays out are you expecting it's going to pan out with submission? Really. You don't want robots. You want to raise children who know they're free to leave you because they can protect themselves. Parents should be preparing their kids for independence, not dependance. So many mothers seem confused. I know it's because they're terrified, for their children's sake. But that's kinda insulting.

Independent children hang around, from what I've seen (backed up by logic). Parents who clip their children's wings?

I think that's why little boys grow up to be bullies, or bullied. And then you'll say "Just stand up to bullies!" And then I wonder if the joke is on me because if you think that's intelligent advice, you're on crack. Forcing showdowns against the odds? Do you read them David v Goliath propaganda before you send them out to get destroyed? tsk.

By 15? They've been destroyed. At least, where I come from. Maybe you're luckier. Or maybe you're like the parents where I come from. Parents who all know how stupid the politicians are. Just ask the 15 year old single mothers, and their 30 year old mothers who are now grandmothers; they’ll tell you. They’re right, in an abstract sense, but it’s not important because these are little girls who didn’t finish 9th grade who are raising children of their own, and you know, it’s not the little girls fault that their little kids are statistically basically screwed.

They're very nearly up against the wall. They will be at 13, these are the maths of the thing. 9 months later, 28 year old grandmothers. It’s not right. They’re getting fooled by professional creeps who act stupid to fool everyone into letting them kill us? Our children? Rape us? Whatever they like, I guess. I think everyone leaves that exchange feeling raped. So here's some encryption, to keep your --shameful--secrets-- from those who have an interest in them.

It’s kind of degrading for everyone; the application of power, I mean. It insults everyone. It's the backdoor for creeps who cannot make their case. They’re not retarded, though. Just really confused about happiness and the pursuit of it.

My title is my business!

The only reason that this is even being discussed is because there are antisocial people out there who want to exploit a lack of privacy for profit. The answer to this question is NO. It always has been and always will be.


People have lives.
Just because they may encrypt their /home folder, it doesn't mean that they work for MI5, 6, and 7, while forging police evidence as a hobby. Though I don't see a need to encrypt your /home folder anyway.
Hello Mike, Graham, and Mr. Gregory. (Sorry if I'm wrong, I'm on Season 3)

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