Debunking "I dont have anything to hide"

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Tyler Nix
Tyler Nix
@tnix

I often hear a common statement when talking with friends or colleagues about digital privacy and why it matters. It usually comes up right after I mention that some company (which offers a really great product for free) is reading/watching/listening way more than they should. Queue the statement,

Yeah, I agree, but I don’t have anything to hide.

Sure, most people aren’t doing something illegal that would get them thrown in jail.

Sure, the product is extremely useful and convenient. But the truth is, each one of us still has information we do not want to share with others.

If you have ever

  • sent a letter in an envelope
  • talked in a whisper
  • shredded a document
  • met with a doctor in a private room
  • kept a secret with a friend
  • closed your house curtains
  • you get the idea...

you do having something to hide. It is less about you not having anything illegal to hide, and more about you having a choice on who reads/hears this information you are sharing. And if you still want a choice on how YOUR information is used, then digital privacy very much matters to you.

Contemplate this...

  1. Search engines know your thoughts and questions.

  2. Social media companies know your habits and emotions.

  3. Email providers know your conversations and relationships.

  4. Online retailers know how you spend your money.

  5. Navigation apps know where you live and where you travel.

I think a lot of people don’t realize that even though these services aren’t technically owned by the same company, they still talk to one another about you. Which means that all that seemingly 'unrelated' data can be congregated and sold to the highest bidder to create a [insert your name] persona. Yikes.

So what are some things you can do about it? Switching to online services that respect your privacy is a good start. While I don’t agree with every recommendation, https://privacytools.io/ does provide a good, comprehensive list of privacy-centric services.

But I’ll share my top five:

  1. Firefox serves as a good alternative for my web browser.
  2. I have lately been impressed with the search engine results from DuckDuckGo.
  3. I’ve made the switch from Gmail to ProtonMail as my email provider, and I am so glad I did.
  4. When on public WiFi, a VPN like ExpressVPN is a good choice to keep your personal information more private and secure.
  5. A solid password manager like 1Password is a must these days for generating new random passwords when signing up for online services.

I feel like this tweet from Tom Morris sums this article up pretty well.

If any person behaved like an app—rifled through your address book, fitted a tracking device to your car, obsessively logged what books and TV shows you watched, and wanted to disturb you at any moment of the day or night—you’d throw them out of your house and call the police. — Tom Morris (@tommorris)

What do you think? Send me an email.