Do you really have nothing to hide?


Do you really have nothing to hide online?

‘Send your nude selfies to a complete stranger to safeguard your privacy!’ That is the core of a new Facebook experiment launched in Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The idea behind this experiment is that women can upload their nude selfies onto a private section of the website, which is then saved into a photo-database. If someone (an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend perhaps) then were to upload your nude selfies out of pure rage or revenge (because that certain boyfriend of girlfriend is now ‘ex’), Facebook can block the picture because the software recognized your picture already. Even though it is a bit contradictory and counterintuitive, it looks like Facebook is actively trying to safeguard your privacy. So good job Facebook!
Or did we clap too soon? Because at the same time, Facebook does of course semi-stalk every single one of us personally. The website creates an impression or ‘digital footprint’ of us based on our likes, friends and Internet search history and presents us with perfectly targeted advertisements. At the moment I get bombarded with deals for vacations the minute I open Facebook, because I was doing some research where I wanted to go this summer…

Problems with nude selfies and targeted advertising are just new elements of all the problems surrounding the social phenomenon privacy. My personal attitude towards privacy used to be, until quite recently: ‘Well I have nothing to hide! I don’t really care whether people know that I like to binge watch Modern Family’.

However, this attitude has changed a couple of months ago, when I read an article that literally stated as a title: ‘Why saying you have nothing to hide is a bullshit argument’. The article went on and on about why safeguarding your privacy is of such importance. You fill in your email address everywhere and accept those annoying cookies almost blindly, which is how a digital footprint of you is created. All this information of you is stored online and you just hope it stays in that ‘cloud’ safely. This is however not always the case and delicate information is often leaked. Just think about the website Ashley Madison, a secret dating website for married people whereof recently many accounts were leaked, or Target accidentally leaking its customer’s credit-card information.

Then, not very long ago, privacy was on the news regarding the passing of a new Dutch law. This infamously nicknamed “dragging law” figuratively ‘drags’ all your online personal information along like a huge fishing net in the search of online crime. The information about you can be stored for years, with all that this entails. You must just hope and keep faith someone won’t seize power and misuse this information, or that some employee does not find it hilarious or beneficial to share your personal information with someone else.

I started thinking about what privacy actually means to me and noticed that I made a clear distinction between online privacy and offline privacy. I am, and probably most people are, very cautious about my offline privacy. Singing off-key in the shower, changing clothes, complaining about my boss to my friends, these are all things that I actively try to keep private. However, at the same time I wasn’t at all busy trying to safeguard my online privacy. Thinking I had nothing to hide, I accepted every cookie and subscribed to every newsletter that came across my path. That this information can eventually be shared or leaked for the whole world to see, was not at all something I was concerned about.

For the first time, I started questioning whether it was actually true that I had nothing to hide, did some research and decided to take some measures. I have not stopped using social media, or went completely off-grid, but I did try to make a few alterations in my life to protect that small bit of privacy that I have left.

  1. As I once read on a poster: Passwords are like underwear. Why? Because you have to change them regularly, shouldn’t leave them on your desk and shouldn’t loan them to friends.
  2. Log off! Those extra 5 seconds of logging in when you want to open Facebook will be worth it. When I took these measures, I was shocked to notice that I even was automatically logged in on my online banking account, which was basically an open invitation to anyone who could grab ahold of my laptop to steal all my money. Not very clever.
  3. Turn off (some of your) location settings. Beside making it a little harder for others  to track you, this also saves a ton of your battery.
  4. Cover your webcam. I know this can sound a little ‘Big Brother is watching you’, but if you knew that someone was constantly watching you in your room, would you do the same things as you are doing now? Would you feel just as free?

We have already given up a big part of our privacy in exchange for free use of social media websites, amongst others. All these tips above don’t take that much time, but might save you some trouble and somewhat protect that little piece of privacy you have left. Privacy is a human right as stated in our Dutch constitution, so why not cherish it like our other freedoms, such as speech and religion, that we so passionately fight for and appeal to almost daily?


Written by: Lucy van Eck 


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