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The fallacy of “nothing to hide”.

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:26 pm on 15 November, 2009.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, culture of suspicion.
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[Hat tip: Tim Worstall]

Sometimes people justify draconian measures by suggesting that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. This is a slogan for the unthinking, it assumes the innocent have nothing to hide and that the authorities can always be trusted. It is patently false, as this report in the Telegraph illustrates:

A City lawyer, Lorraine Elliott, was fired from a £150,000-a-year job working on a Government contract after a vetting check showed that she had been wrongly accused of forging a signature on her daughter’s nursery application form.

Mrs Elliott, 42, had her details logged on the police national computer after she was wrongly accused by her estranged husband of signing his name on the form.

She was arrested but cleared within 24 hours, and checks at the school found no evidence of wrongdoing. However, officers kept details of her arrest – effectively giving her a record.

Mrs Elliott disclosed yesterday how the “black mark” caused her to fail a security check and cost her a job working on the National Identity Card scheme.

The mother of three, from Tenterden, Kent, said the arrest had potentially ruined her 25-year career. “It’s infuriating that details about me and my arrest are still retained on the police computer system for all to see despite the fact that I was never charged because there was no evidence,” she said.

It is deeply ironic that this should happen to someone who wished to work in the National Identity Scheme…

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