The ‘nothing to hide’ argument to an erosion of privacy raises a few problems. Firstly, it’s based on a narrow definition of privacy; a right to keep secrets – only criminals need to keep secrets. The ‘no junk mail’ sign on letterboxes suggests people might expect privacy to include a right to not receive unwanted advertisement. Secondly, algorithms build very detailed impressions of people from small bits of information we all happily share. These digital mosaics are analysed to find correlations that predict future behaviour – correlation is not the same as causation. You may have nothing to hide but that won’t help when the computer says ‘no’ based on an impenetrable correlation. The potential benefits of AI, automation, and data portability are enormous. To understand the trade-offs, we just need a modern, ‘digital-native’ concept of privacy.
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