I have nothing to hide. Why should I care about privacy?

January 28 is Data Privacy Day. Throughout the months of January and February, the EDUCAUSE Cybersecurity Initiative will highlight higher education privacy issues. To learn more, visit StaySafeOnline.

Thank you to Lisa Ho, Professor Ken Goldberg, and the University of California, Berkeley for allowing EDUCAUSE to republish this blog. — Editor

In celebration of Data Privacy Day (Jan. 28), we offer three reasons for the university community to care about privacy.

1. Learning is personal

As much as we grow through our community, learning is essentially an internal transformation.

Keeping grades, letters of recommendation, and evaluations private is not about hiding. It’s about keeping assessments candid and providing feedback for learning — without branding people with a reputation to live up to or live down.

Protecting student privacy is also federal law.

2. Creativity requires time to develop and freedom to take risks

(Image of painter: Sam Javanrouh)

Distribution of your unpublished paper, research, book, artwork, proposal, thesis, patent, theory, algorithm, opinion, analysis, review, protest, composition, piece, etc. should remain under your control until you are ready to share it broadly. It’s not about hiding ideas, it’s about developing them.

“A society in which people can be monitored at all times is a society that breeds conformity and obedience and submission.

“It is a realm of privacy, the ability to go somewhere and think and reason and interact and speak without the judgmental eyes of others being cast upon us [editor: until we are ready], in which creativity and exploration and dissent exclusively reside.”

Glenn Greenwald

See also Sara Lewis: “How Privacy Fuels Creativity

3. It's a fundamental right


(Free Speech Movement sign under Sather Gate, University Archives photo, courtesy of Bancroft Library. 1964.)

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

“You can’t give away the rights of others because they’re not useful to you. [Editor: You just might find you need those rights some day.]

“Nobody needs to justify why they ‘need’ a right.”

Edward Snowden

Privacy is like oxygen: It's invisible and easy to ignore…until it's taken away.

Lisa Ho is the campus privacy officer at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ken Goldberg is a professor and chair of the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Republished with permission. All rights reserved.