The argument that no privacy problem exists if a person has nothing to hide is frequently made in connection with many privacy issues. When the government engages in surveillance, many people believe that there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private.
Professor Daniel J. Solove has posted this paper as a 28-page pdf to be read on-line or downloaded (at no charge), at
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. THE “NOTHING TO HIDE” ARGUMENT
III. CONCEPTUALIZING PRIVACY
……….A. A Pluralistic Conception of Privacy
……….B. The Social Value of Privacy
IV. THE PROBLEM WITH THE “NOTHING TO HIDE” ARGUMENT
……….A. Understanding the Many Dimensions of Privacy
……….B. Understanding Structural Problems
Since the September 11 attacks, the government has been engaging in extensive surveillance and data mining. Regarding surveillance, in December 2005, the New York Times revealed that after September 11, the Bush Administration secretly authorized the National Security Administration (NSA) to engage in warrantless wiretapping of American citizens’ telephone calls.1 As for data mining, which involves analyzing personal data for patterns of suspicious behavior, the government has begun numerous programs….
See Prof. Solove’s About page at