3 Reasons the ‘Nothing to Hide’ Crowd Should Be Worried About Government Surveillance

Most people think the federal government would have no interest in them, but many discover to their horror how wrong they are

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3. Government Is Made of People, and Some People Are Creepy, Petty, Incompetent, or Dangerous

Gilberto Valle had an unusual sexual fetish. He fantasized about kidnapping, killing, and eating young women.

"You look absolutely delicious in that Instagram picture!"FacebookValle was also a member of the New York Police Department, and was convicted in March of plotting to make his fantasies a reality. Whether he really meant to do so is up in the air (his defense was that this was all sexual roleplay), but he was also convicted of looking up his potential targets in a national crime database, accessible due to his position of authority.

While the federal government is arguing that all this massive metadata being collected by the National Security Agency is subject to significant oversight and not subject to abuse, it is at the same time trying to blame the IRS targeting political and conservative nonprofits for special questioning as the actions of rogue employees and poor management.

You don’t have to be a privacy purist to be concerned about bad or dangerous people getting information about you. Some of them work for the government, and they may be interested in you for reasons that have nothing to do with politics. Even if you have nothing to hide.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • cw||

    Excellent article, Scott. I will repost this elsewhere.

  • Almanian!||

    Seconded

  • John Galt||

    Thirded

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  • Mumu Bobby||

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  • dysonology||

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  • ImanAzol||

    Why don't reasontards clean out the shit now and then? This spam has been here for a year. I guess they endorse it.

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  • Brandon||

    If there were no restrictions on speech, drugs, guns, commerce, travel, property, childcare or food, I would not be worried about the government spying on me. Can we make that deal, government?

  • Almanian!||

    I'd add a few more things (personal computer use, so-called 'sex crimes' that don't hurt anyone, etc), but close enough.

    And, actually, I'd be worried anyway, cause with a stroke of the pen...."you are impure and must recant your beliefs! Cardinal Fang - READ THE CHARGES!"

  • fish||

    Gilberto Valle had an unusual sexual fetish. He fantasized about kidnapping, killing, and eating young women.

    Who doesn't?

  • Northfield Web Design||

    Some times this can be true or fales. Make sure they give good reasons.

  • CE||

    You left out investing.

  • josh||

    i'm not a libertarian really...actually most, if not all of you would call me a statist, fo which i'm unapologetic. anyway, i do however enjoy reading the articles here so very much. i learn a lot from a lot of you, even if the conclusions are different. just thought i'd mention it.

  • josh||

    *for....spelling though, i'm yet to learn apparently.

  • MoMark||

    Well, Thanks Josh!

    Pretty edgy around here and you can get you ears boxed off taking the side of a “statist” but feel free to chime in anytime. However, the fundamental philosophical premise of a libertarian is that no one should be able “initiate” force in a free society, and to say that I do have the right to initiate force to accomplish fill-in-blank will forever put you at odds with us.

  • Rarely Offended||

    ~Well, that's encouraging.~

  • fish||

    Bullshit! You just want me to know that I can make $7863 a month working from the comfort of my own home....and that you couldn't believe it until you saw the check your self.

  • Sevo||

    josh| 6.12.13 @ 4:54PM |#
    "i'm not a libertarian really...actually most, if not all of you would call me a statist, fo which i'm unapologetic."

    Would you be so kind as to explain to your co-statists that government data collection is fundamentally different from commercial data collection?
    One of those can throw you in jail or just flat kill you. The other can send you advertisements.
    I'm hoping you know which is which.
    Thank you.

  • Suellington||

    If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, is a libertarian a liberal who got mugged by the government?

    Having my family mugged by the SF city government certainly helped me move considerably towards libertarianism. Reading a lot of economics over the last five years completely pushed me into the monocle camp.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Hi Josh… Actually, not all of those of us who post here are Devout Libertarians. Take me, and my millions of fellow Scienfoologists who worship at http://www.churchofsqrls.com/ , for example… We actually, proudly WORSHIP Government Almighty! And I “josh” you not! My diocese of the Church focuses mostly on Worshipping the FDA (and the FDA’s “lung flute police” and “earpopper police”, etc.), but I would have no argument with you if you’d want to set up the DEA-Worshipping Diocese of the Church of Scienfoology, for example. I would be sure to link to your web site! … Anyway, glad to hear that there are fellow admirers of Government Almighty out there! -SQRLSy One

  • CE||

    You'll have to come with us, son. Your metadata shows you made a phone call in Dallas, and 2 and half hours later you made a phone call in Austin, and your Internet metadata shows you didn't book any flights, so you must be guilty of driving 78.4 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone.

  • Rich||

    I am seriously amazed that this kind of stuff has not been done routinely for years.

  • Mumu Bobby||

    That's what you're supposed to think!

  • plusafdotcom||

    ...Didn't need the Internet or NSA for that... the NJ Garden State Parkway... or was it the NJ Turnpike... I forget... did that decades ago.

    When you got your "entry" ticket at the toll booth, it was time-stamped, and if you got to your "exit booth" too soon, they would/could ticket you for excess speed.

    You could tell the speed-loving drivers because they'd pull off onto the shoulder of the road just before the toll booth and wait the appropriate number of seconds before paying up.

    :)

  • ImanAzol||

    Sure, I know the speed limit is 55 mph, but I was only going to be out for 30 minutes.

  • MoMark||

    There is a fourth reason, in the year 2023 a progeny of nanny Bloomberg working for NSA will watch you eat your fifth Hostess Cupcake while Skyping and send the sugar police to your door.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Sugar police?

    I'm much more worried about the suede denim police! They will make you jog for the master race.

    Now it's 1984

  • Devil's Advocate||

    If you are going with the Dead Kennedys, I was thinking this.

  • Number 2||

    "There’s a reason why Baby Boomers have started comparing Barack Obama to Richard Nixon. The value of doing so has been lost to the ages; everything politically awful that happens in America is compared to Tricky Dick."

    Let's not forget that Nixon built on practices that dated back to LBJ, JKF and FDR, even if he raised them to new heights.

  • ChrisO||

    Government is inherently untrustworthy, regardless of who's in charge. That was the entire point of checks and balances--to keep the thieves watching each other.

    Unfortunately, Congress slowly gave away its power over the last 150 years, and the PATRIOT Act seems to have been the coup de grace.

  • XM||

    It's ok for the government to spy on you, now that Obama is the president.

  • Devil's Advocate||

    You have to admit that convincing progressives that it is okay to goose-step so openly and publicly is quite an impressive feat. And in less than five years, too.

  • Libertarius||

    They didn't need convincing. The mask is off now.

  • GetABrainMorans||

    This is what Tony actually believes

  • JSebastian||

    The government doesn't give a shit about anything except perpetuating itself and government agents operate on the same self-interest spectrum as any private person or member of the public. So they will fuck you over if it helps them, and sometimes, because some government agents are sadistic shitheads, even if it does not help them.

    That is why one should not trust the government - they don't have any restraint on their actions that they can take in their own self-interest and contrary to yours. There is no oversight, no accountability (well, sometimes, but its "pay to play" because justice is not free and bringing a suit against the government generally fails because they have granted themselves immunity against their own actions!).

    So do NOT trust the government, any government. Be wary, and always maintain the ability to punish some government agent or representative, in retribution, should they manage to screw you. If you get an unfair conviction in one case, because the government lied, while you may not be able to exact revenge against the guilty person or persons, you could certainly exact it against any government agency or agent and thereby punish the collective government, even though you have not been able to direct it against the guilty individual. If they want to believe in collectivism, which they cite as the foundation of their existence, then the guilt of one is the guilt of all, so they have to live with the behavior that ethos implies and inspires.

  • Aresen||

    The fact I have something to hide doesn't give you the right to spy on me.

  • triclops||

    Questioning the purity of the NSA's motives, more like TReason.com!

  • Inigo M.||

    Excellent article!

    I've been very dismayed that the majority of comments I've been seeing online on Facebook, etc. are from the "nothing to hide" camp.

    Even worse, I've been reading dismissals of the famous Ben Franklin quote about trading liberty for security as no longer appropriate for our times! Ben had to worry about redcoats with muskets firing in formation, they say, not terrorists with nuclear or biological threats. Seriously, what is wrong with these people?

    About the only positive thing from reading such stuff is that my complexion is improving from all the face palming I've been doing these last few days as I hear from people who are not just willing, but seemingly EAGER, to hand over complete control.

  • LifeStrategies||

    Remember, "Nothing to Hide" was more or less the position of Reverend Martin Niemoeller, a German Lutheran pastor arrested by the Gestapo, sent to Dachau Concentration Camp in 1938, and freed by the allied forces in 1945.

    He subsequently explained that:

    "In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, but I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me."

  • Anders||

    Excellent article and well explained.

    Of course you should fear this kind of surveillance.

  • Anders||

    I couldn't agree more, Jose.

    And it's amazing, my cousin made $75,129.52 last month using his computer to spy on innocent people using the new free NSA Internet! He bought a black GMC Tahoe last month and all the hookers the Secret Service couldn't afford to pay. You could do this too!

  • ashdex||

    I used to be in the "nothing to hide" camp and I don't think anyone abandons that way of thinking unless some life crisis/conflict forces a change in perspective.

  • ashdex||

    BTW I didn't mean to imply that I now have something to hide - I meant that my perspective changed after some life experiences. (I hope I didn't trigger an alert up at Quantico or wherever...DANGIT! - I hope "trigger" isn't one of the key words)

  • Mediabeam||

    Being one of the NTH brigade I read Scott's article with interest. I soon realised that whereas the various articles that I have read and commented upon are all predicated on the 'I can't bear the thought of people reading things I thought were private!' perspective he advances new, reasoned arguments which merit consideration (and he uses one of my favourite words: egregious).

    The usual 'argument'irritates because it assumes that anyone would have the time or inclination to read vast quantities of mundane messages!

    As my degree was in politics and I grew up in a politically active family I felt slightly chastened too. Then to read that I was being selfish really made me sit up!

    The points are valid - however the type of measures listed are not yet being practised and would take vast human resources to prosecute. History shows that the 'thin end of the wedge' here is when the data is used to target a particular group as an excuse to detain or prosecute them (eg activists being arrested for unconnected 'offences'). But we need to be vigilant for such abuses of power - always have and always will!

    So my view is still that boring old fuddy-duddies like me and my relations and friends HNTF but all of us who value our freedoms ought to keep watch to see that these new methods of surveillance are used properly, subject to judicial review and that mis-use is punished. New technology is another aspect of our lives that must be (and be seen to be)used wisely and well.

  • Kratoklastes||

    You have to be a fan of Monkey Dust to get this...

    I am the Paedo-Finder General

    This article - and some of the comments - used all the letters required to make the words "I love little kiddies".

    By the powers invested in me by the hysterical ill-educated masses, I pronounce all of you guilty of paedophilia.

    (Initially I thought the Monkey Dust writers were being ungrammatical by saying "the powers invested in me", but I think it was deliberate - to show that the Torquemadas, Bellarmines, Napolitanos, Renos and Sunsteins of the world are, at bottom, more concerned with the exercise of their raw power than with protocol or process... and that the masses are too bewildered by that power to notice that what's being said makes no sense).

    Off now to visit all those linka bout how much money can be made from home - although if they were really doing well someone would have mentioned buying a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento.

  • nikki_burges||

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  • nikki_burges||

    my classmate's half-sister makes $89 hourly on the laptop. She has been without work for eight months but last month her pay was $17560 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more www.zen45.com

  • J_West||

    Another point to be considered is the government entrapping people by enticing otherwise law abiding people into committing illegal acts.

  • mnwebdesign||

    If you don't mind them collecting your phone records because you are NOT a terrorist- you wouldn't mind Gov't officials checking your house once a week " just because"

  • Twin Cities Web Design||

    Well, this can be the rules of government and how we can check to see if that is not serious.

  • MN Internet Marketing||

    That can be a true thing. I will check to see if they are real solutions.

  • PACW||

    I actually clicked on the link mentioned. . . of all the twitter posts by people with 'nothing to hide'. Finally realized I was engaged in self-harm and I closed the tab. There were so many and they were serious.

  • Yuri A.||

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