This week, the Swedish Police was caught red-handed keeping illegal databases of Romani people and their kinship – no criminal history, no suspicion of crime, just Romani descent. This event shows why the “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear” cliché is dangerous and wrong.
Over 5,000 people have been found in two different databases with the Swedish Police where Romani people have been registered and cataloged merely for being of Romani descent and culture. Being of a certain cultural descent is not criminal, obviously, and so, the police database is highly illegal. It contains over a thousand children, including two-year-olds.
What’s interesting is society’s reaction to this – how the database has been condemned by angry people across the board, from the homeless to the political elite. While this is rightly so – the cataloging of people just for being a certain cultural descent is horrifying – the people who are angry now have not previously spoken up against unwarranted surveillance. Rather, up until now, warrantless wiretapping has been discarded snobbishly by the cultural and political elite and blue-collar workers alike with the false and dangerous cliché “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”.
All of a sudden, though, all corners of society are up in arms. But this is not logical. If – I repeat, if the saying “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” is true, then it obviously applies to the database of people of Romani descent, too. It must either be true, and apply to both the databases of communications of innocent citizens who are not suspected of a crime and the database of equally innocent people of Romani descent (two police databases of innocent people), or it must be false, and apply to neither.
The anger from every conceivable group of society over the police database of Romani people is a very clear statement that the dangerous cliché is false. You don’t have nothing to fear just because you aren’t hiding anything. On the contrary, if you, your kin, and your friends are cataloged, you have everything to fear – just because of that fact, entirely regardless of whether you want some privacy.
This lesson needs to apply to the wiretapping that’s becoming increasingly ubiquitous. We are now all cataloged like the Romani in Sweden – who we communicate with, how, and when. This is dangerous and needs to stop.
At the end of the day, privacy remains your own responsibility, and the cliché “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” is false, dangerous, and deceptive.