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Nothing-to-hide Argument Has Nothing to Say

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Daniel J. Solove is a full-time law professor at the George Washington University Law School. This essay is from his new book, Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, published in May of 2011 by Yale University Press. He introduces possible problems of government information gathering and surveillance that are often overlooked. He had the intention to remind the audience of the importance of privacy.

As, everyone assumes that we are not being monitored, Professor Solove effectively convinces the audience that the “nothing-to-hide” argument doesn’t successfully cover all the problems that arise from the government’s evidence. Solove says the claim “I’ve got nothing to hide” argument, which is so often mentioned in discussions concerning the government’s gathering and examination of our personal information.

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Solove’s uses the ethos appeal to get to the audience to think about the ethical. He does this by starting an argument, “I’ve got nothing to hide…only if you’re doing something wrong should you worry, and then you don’t deserve to keep it private” (734). He also uses a logical tone to appeal to the audience he explains how this brief argument goes from faulty to explaining what privacy really means as well as what we retain from the information given.

“Thus, some might argue, the privacy interest is minimal, and the security interest in preventing terrorism is much more important. In the less extreme form, the nothing-to-hide argument is a formidable one. (737)” He uses logos to point of the fact that privacy issues aren’t as important as the terrorism issues we have in the world pathos is because he wants to evoke the emotional aspect of his readers. The statement builds trust between Solove and the audience. He recognizes a similar belief that the government does not have the right to go through their privacy without permission, which many of the audience members can relate to.

He wants his audience to conclude that it’s lousy for the government to get involved in people’s privacy. We should do something to protect our privacy. To establish a relationship and persuade the audience, to investigate their privacy and see what the government is monitoring what we are doing. He also argues that the process of information storage and analysis creates a power imbalance between the people and the government. The government is always monitoring what we say and do online. He says, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” (735). Everyone has something to hide nobody watches what they say or do all the time.

Solove said you have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, whereas Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says “Everyone is guilty of something or has something to conceal. All one has to do is look hard enough to find what it is” (736), which means that everyone secretly has something they don’t want to turn up or the government to see. Everyone values their privacy even if they act like they don’t care. There is no sentient human in the world who doesn’t have any regard to their personal privacy.

Everyone has some concern for what the government and others look at or come across when searching the web. The nothing to hide argument simply states, “not all personal information but only to the type of data the government is likely to collect” (737). All the information that is collected is closed off from the public and it is very rare for someone to see the information that is collected yet it will always be accessible. The only way to know your privacy is to know the laws around it.


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