Bruce Schneier: The Value of Privacy


My essay on privacy:

The most common retort against privacy advocates — by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures — is this line: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”
Some clever answers: “If I’m not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.” “Because the government gets to define what’s wrong, and they keep changing the definition.” “Because you might do something wrong with my information.” My problem with quips like these — as right as they are — is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

And a quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, from 1968:

As every man goes through life he fills in a number of forms for the record, each containing a number of questions… There are thus hundreds of little threads radiating from every man, millions of threads in all. If these threads were suddenly to become visible, the whole sky would look like a spider’s web, and if they materialized as rubber bands, buses; trams and even people would all lose the ability to move, and the wind would be unable to carry torn-up newspapers or autumn leaves along the streets of the city. They are not visible, they are not material, but every man is constantly aware of their existence… Each man, permanently aware of his own invisible threads, naturally develops a respect for the people who manipulate the threads.

Bruce Schneier is a prolific writer on security issues, with eight books — including Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World — and dozens of articles to his name. He blogs at