Privilege and “I don’t have anything to hide”

This is something I mentioned in passing in my original “Security through Banality” post.  Security through Banality (the idea that your bad deeds are so minor that nobody would bother to target you versus everyone else) is an inherently privileged position.  It presupposes that nobody is looking to target you for other reasons.

If everyone is guilty of something, then there are two possible ways that your guilt could end up actually inconveniencing you:

1.  As I discussed in the original post, automated processes could attack your guilt without human intervention.

2.  People who don’t like you could be assured that you’re guilty of something, and attack you via whatever guilt is convenient.

The kind of people who typically say, “I have nothing to hide,” are, I’d argue, largely white people in populations not targeted for official harassment (that is to say: middle and upper class, and some populations of mostly-rural poor).  Part of the assurance they feel is that, no, of course the police or somebody won’t go pouring through their data looking for whatever minor crimes they’ve committed.

I’m not here to say that people should feel bad about enjoying their privilege when it doesn’t hurt anyone else — and this doesn’t.  If you’re in the privileged class that doesn’t get harassed by government for no reason, great!  Good for you.  But some things to consider:

Traditional privilege is shrinking.  For a variety of reasons (a more plural society, identification of privilege, increased automation in identifying targets, a cancerous security state), you are less likely to be protected by your traditional privilege.

And it behoves you to care about injustice that happens to people who aren’t in your fortunate position.

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2 thoughts on “Privilege and “I don’t have anything to hide”

  1. Pingback: Legal Theft | Sandor at the Zoo

  2. Pingback: The Crooked Ladder and Total Enforcement | Sandor at the Zoo

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