Why Privacy is Essential to Freedom

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When it comes to privacy, you've probably heard the "I don't have anything to hide" argument.

At first glance, this seems reasonable. If you're a good, law-abiding citizen, why should you care if the government and corporations know everything about you? You're not doing anything wrong, so who cares?

But as the journalist and privacy activist Glenn Greenwald discusses in his amazing Ted Talk Why Privacy Matters, we all have something to hide.

Why?

Because we all have two sides to our personality: the person we are in public, while we're being watched and judged; and the person we are in private, without fear of social judgment.

According to Carl Jung, our public persona is "a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual."

The problem is that, when we know we're being watched, we automatically restrict ourselves in what we say and how we act. This encourages conformity and stifles originality and freedom of expression.

This is also why totalitarian governments since the beginning of time have been hugely anti-privacy. Privacy empowers citizens by allowing them to dissent without the fear of being immediately punished — something you definitely don't want if you're a dictator trying to stay in power.

The other problem with "nothing to hide" is that it assumes that the law is — and always will be — completely just and fair. Such an argument only works if the justice system is 100% perfect — because you might think you have nothing to hide, but that means nothing if the government decides to disagree with you.