Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Something to hide?

There is a perceived conflict between two things. On the one hand, security and law enforcement. On the other hand, privacy and confidentiality.

The advocates of security and law enforcement often dismiss concerns about privacy and confidentiality with the "something to hide" argument. In other words, if you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to worry about. Among other things, this argument is used to defend the proliferation of surveillance and CCTV.

This leads to the grossly unfair assumption that people who are highly protective of their privacy and confidentiality are probably up to no good. This is linked to the popular (but sometimes misleading) POSIWID-related assertion: No Smoke Without Fire.

There are lots of complex and politically charged aspects to the investigation of dealings between British Aerospace (BAe) and members of the Saudi Royal family [BBC News, June 26th 2007]. One of the possible effects of the investigation is that it may disrupt BAe's attempted take-over of the US firm Armor Holdings, which US competitors have viewed with some disfavour.

The Saudi government has always insisted that these dealings should remain confidential. And if the dealings between BAe and the Saudi Royal family are legal, then they have just as much right to confidentiality as any other corporate entity. Let us hope that the advocates of confidentiality in this case (possibly including Tony Blair) are as vocal in their support of the principles of confidentiality and privacy in other cases.

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