What is the surveillance society?
In modern day society, everybody is watched and scrutinized, even when we are unaware of it. Currently, Britain is thought to be a ‘surveillance society’ by using technology to monitor the actions of the population by using more than 6 million CCTV cameras. In support of mass surveillance, the ‘if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear’ argument is used commonly against privacy advocates. However, there are those that have discredited this claim and argued against it. In this essay, arguments will be made to explain why I disagree with the statement ‘if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear from surveillance’. This will be done by exploring the right to privacy, the problem with not knowing who has access to our personal data, the possibility of data being misinterpreted and the effect of discrimination through surveillance.
One of the key points against the ‘I have nothing to hide’ arguments is that it disregards the right to privacy. Privacy is a fundamental part of our lives and it true to say that most people would have ‘something to hide’ whether it is something embarrassing or just that they are simply unwilling to disclose intimate information about their personal lives. For example, an individual’s salary is typically a private matter and most people would not be very forthcoming with the details if asked about it from a stranger if it is not required. However, mass surveillance permits strangers to access personal data such as this and the ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument suggests that people should blindly let this happen if they are innocent of any wrong doing. In reaction to this argument, United States whistle-blower and former National Security Agency worker Edward Snowden stated:
“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.