With all the stuff going on with surveillance and data privacy — especially the past week — it's worthwhile to revisit this essay by Daniel J. Solove, a professor of law at George Washington University, on why privacy matters even if you "have nothing to hide."
"My life's an open book," people might say. "I've got nothing to hide." But now the government has large dossiers of everyone's activities, interests, reading habits, finances, and health. What if the government leaks the information to the public? What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you're likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd—even if you've done nothing wrong—and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn't protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.
"But the government doesn't want to hurt me," some might argue. In many cases, that's true, but the government can also harm people inadvertently, due to errors or carelessness.
You might not have anything to hide right now, but maybe a random string of choices that was completely harmless looks a lot like something else a few years from now, to someone sniffing around the archives. The patterns when there are no patterns sort of thing. Personal data without the person. [via @hmason]