Blog / 2020 / An Open Letter to Those Who Say They’ve Got Nothing to Hide

November 2, 2020

“Social media can track me all it wants. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

Do you recognize yourself in those lines? If so, then I wrote this blog post for you! Because the fact is that, whether or not you have anything to hide, when you know you’re being observed, your behavior changes.

This can be okay. It can lead you to a greater awareness of how you occur in the world and a willingness to be more sensitive to the ways you affect others. But it can also be very bad.

When nothing is truly private, it becomes impossible for you to discover who you really are.

I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram as well as so-called “free” email services like Gmail are making it harder and harder for you to be you.

Even when you think you’re speaking privately via direct message, these platforms are harvesting data about you. They use that information to sell both products and ideologies to you and your friends in a hyper-targeted, mind-narrowing way. This ends up reinforcing the part of you that’s a consumer, while at the same sabotaging your capacity for independent thought.

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When a company tells you their service is “free,” this word should sound an alarm. In corporate marketing speak, “free” translates to: “we sell your data to everyone, harming you with a thousand tiny cuts that we know you’ll never consciously notice.”

Handing over your privacy because you have “nothing to hide” might not sound that bad—it might even make you feel virtuous—but it’s ultimately the same as signing away all freedom and choice. When ads that are tailored to work on people like you have filled every nook and cranny of your brain, it becomes impossible to choose anything other than what you are being sold.

So, while I still can, I’m deleting two of these “free” platforms, Facebook and Instagram. For the moment, I’m keeping Gmail, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, so it’s hard not to feel like it’s a losing battle, but activism that lasts is always a slow burn. Small steps get us there just the same.


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