What is the best argument against mass surveillance when people say “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”?


By John Tasch, a former FBI Agent


This is from quora


Back when I was an FBI Agent, I remember being frustrated by how cumbersome it was to gain access to someone’s personal affairs for the sake of furthering an investigation—now that I’m out and I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m glad that it was hard.


But to answer the question about having “nothing to hide” and thus “nothing to fear”:


My opinion is that people who think like that probably lead boring lives. Either that or they are ignorant of the capabilities of an all-too-powerful central government.


Consider the first point—while these people very well may have “nothing to hide,” their position on the matter is only a snapshot in time. Who among us can say with certainty that we won’t, one day, do or say something we wouldn’t want the government to know about?


And I’m not talking about things like wanting to blow up a building or actively embezzling your employer. I’m talking about things that are a far cry from criminality or national security.


Another great argument that I’ve seen in other answers is the notion that “It’s just none of their damn business.”


I agree.


But let’s set that aside for a moment and consider this:


A government, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad, it just….is. And what’s great about the U.S. government is not the power it possesses, but that which it doesn’t.


This is why I cherish the Bill of Rights.


It enumerates what the government CANNOT do. And one of the things it cannot do is conduct a search without specificity and probable cause, and not without being signed off on by a judge or magistrate.


Because here is what we certainly do not want:


The federal government’s current surveillance and collection capabilities,

Combined with an increased and sweeping permissibility to collect.

If that were to happen, then what is stopping a government from preventing or promoting certain outcomes outside of things involving criminality or national security?


For example, those of a political nature.


To me, that is a terrifying proposition.