Tom McGurk hosted an interesting debate on privacy last week with representatives of Digital Rights Ireland and the data protection commissioner last week (shame his show has finished and Ryan Tubridy has returned!).
One thing which disappointed me was the number of respondents to the show who made comments along the lines of “I haven’t done anything wrong, the government are welcome to look over all my records”
Bruce Schneier counters this fallacy very effectively when he says:
Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.
Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? (“Who watches the watchers?”) and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest — or just blackmail — with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.
Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.