Last Updated on September 24, 2021

I’ve spent a lot of time building privacy related processes and products.

I’ve heard it said “if you’ve got nothing to hide, then you don’t need to worry about privacy” and been a bit flummoxed on how to respond, but knowing that I disagreed. This mental model of privacy being relational helped me better articulate why privacy matters.

Everyone has something to hide. Privacy is relational. It depends on the audience. You don’t want your employer to know you’re job hunting. You don’t spill all about your love life to your mom, or your kids. You don’t tell trade secrets to your rivals. We don’t expose ourselves indiscriminately, and we care enough about exposure to lie as a matter of course. Among upstanding citizens, researchers have consistently found that lying  is “an everyday social interaction” (twice a day among college students, once a day in the Real World). Remember the disasters that befell Jim Carrey in that movie plot that left him magically unable to fib for even one day? Comprehensive transparency is a nightmare.

Barton Gellman