I don’t have “something to hide”, it’s just none of your business

If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear

Some variant on that phrase, attested as early as 1918 in Upton Sinclair’s The Profits of Religion, seems to surface every time there’s a discussion on the human right to privacy.

But privacy isn’t about hiding anything. Protecting privacy is about protecting the right for you to say “this is none of your business”, and to have that respected.

If you keep a journal or diary, what you write there is none of anyone’s business. It’s private. You may choose to share part or all of it with some people, but you expect to control what you share and with whom. If someone read your journal without your permission, you would rightfully be angry. If they then shared what they read with others (again, without your permission), you would rightfully be livid. They have violated your privacy.

Likewise, what you choose to look at online isn’t secret, but it’s not anyone’s business either. It’s private. You may choose to share bits of it with some people, but you should expect to control what you share and with whom. When Facebook or Google decides to examine, retain, and share that information about you without getting your permission first, it is not really any different than having read and shared your diary.

For people in abusive relationships, living with diseases that are targeted for discrimination, being threatened with violence for their viewpoints, and so on this is even more true.

In other words, the right to privacy is a right of control, not of secrecy.