Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[FR] Je n'ai rien à cacher (I've got nothing to hide) (jenairienacacher.fr)
77 points by couac on Jan 29, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 81 comments

(I don't know enough French to discuss this matter, let's stick to English)

All the people I have met who resort to the "nothing to hide" paradigm were older than 65.these people don't have Facebook or smartphones, and they don't realize that their cars, insurance records and financial transactions are all being tracked. They do not understand the sensitivity of meta data or social graphs, nor do they care. They have their life in order, and surveillance doesn't take anything away from them. The fear of terrorism is a lot more substantial at their points in life.

I don't know about discourse in France - I can imagine that hell just broke loose after the recent attacks. Here in Germany, it's very much a generation problem. Those who care about civil rights and an active democracy are young, and young educated people are a minority. Old people are heavily catered to by the governing parties, and they all seem to love surveillance, most being lucky enough to never have experienced the downsides.

This fight feels a lot like the gay rights movement. Preconceptions are impossible to overcome, all you can do is wait for twenty years until you have a sizeable part of the population behind you, and then start an uproar. In the meantime, it doesn't help to, say, explain how small the aids propagation rate is. Nobody cares.

That depends on geographical and historical context. In my country (ex-Soviet Union), the opposite is true. Older people, who have experienced what totalitarianism and mass surveillance is (thanks to KGB), are very pro-privacy. My grandmother still tears up every single letter to the small pieces before dumping it, even though that's a casual utility bill. On the other hand, youth, that are used to share all their life details on Facebook, Twitter and whatnot, are mostly of "I have nothing to hide" attitude. Only minority of young people (usually more technically literate) understand how important privacy is and how powerful information can be.

EDIT: grammar.

I'm German and I'd argue the complete opposite way. Older people here are totally more privacy aware than young people / my generation that haven't witnessed the Stasi.

I'm from Poland, living in UK. In Poland, older people value privacy a lot, because they remember communism, secret police and censorship, while young people don't care as much. In UK, I've heard multiple times from older people that they don't care about privacy and that they trust the government 100%, while young people are more privacy conscious.

I'm a software developer in training from west Germany. We discussed this "nothing to hide" topic in our class (ages about 17 - 30) and about half of them didn't care or even appreciated surveillance.

I wonder if you and hengheng are on opposite sides of the country? My favorite physicist I've worked with had a fascinating viewpoint on how his life changed when the wall fell.

Hell did not break loose in France after Charlie Hebdo. They had huge rallies in support of freedom of speech. And they were joined by all religions and political factions. All in all, democracy and societal harmony prevailed.

By the way, you are German and think the older generation has no problem with surveillance? What about the experiences made in Eastern Germany? 1989 is not far into the past, you know.

Alas, old western Germans are not as sensitive to the Stasi in this day and age as their counterparts in the East may appear to be - although Germany likes to think of itself an open culture, there is much that is still very insular about the German body politic.

And then there's the fact that the German people have been living in a society dominated by a non-sovereign intelligence agency since the end of WW2, a fact which won't change any time soon. The USA actually runs German intelligence agencies; if anything, Germany is the testing ground for new forms of societal control that the American TLA's can implement in their own realm. Slowly, over a period of time unnoticeable by the average bourgeoisie...

This thread created many accounts of viewpoints opposite to mine, reporting how the younger generation loves to share everything with the panopticon, while the older generation is highly averse after to their experiences with Stasi 1.0. I'm happy to be proven wrong.

The conservative older people around me (e.g. family and their peers) all share the perspective I described, and that's all I have to qualify my statement. They are also all conservative or FDP voters. Weirdly enough, even those from Saxony or Thuringia didn't realize the Stasi analogy.

"Today no-one has their eyes on me, it's all just machines" was the most common sentiment I heard from them. Which might actually be a common stance ... across all generations.

sadly enough, my own mother is facebook addict, sharing everything personal on iCloud, gmail or Facebook. When I warn her about that she even gave the "got nothing to hide" argument, with the "if they got money/time to loose on me sharing pics of my cats, good for them!"... whereas she fled away from the Romanian/soviet dictatorship of Ceaușescu, having the Securitate secret police torture and deport parents and friends.

And though not that far, she's under that "65 y/o". But I won't give up repeating that argument that all that is wrong!

To be fair, in this day and age, projecting a view of yourself as "sharing pics of my cats" is better than projecting nothing, unless you actually are trying to project absolutely nothing. Which is pretty much impossible.

I'm in the "nothing to hide" camp, and I'm not even 25.

Unlike many, I don't see lack of privacy as a compromise, nor do I see it as a security feature (i.e., against terrorism). Unlike many, I do understand the sensitivity of meta data and social graphs, and I deeply care about it.

It is obvious to me that transparency has all the benefits over privacy. It's a simpler way to think about and understand the world, it's easier to implement and maintain, and it's much more efficient.

Transparency is the way it should be. Privacy is just a band-aid, a patch, a set of arbitrary workarounds that in no way fights the underlying problems, if any there are. If anything, privacy only contributes to the increasing reliance on privacy that's expected of us. By keeping information secret, you encourage others to think it should be, and some people eventually are lead to believe that some things should inherently be secretive, without understanding why that is.

Do you really want to live in a world where you must constantly worry about your every steps, your every words, your every interactions? Do you believe it is sustainable to build systems that are 100 times more complex and inefficient as they should be just because you want to remain anonymous? Do you embrace the fact that people who are better manipulators/liers will always have an edge in a society that encourages privacy, since they can control what they decide to show the world? Do you realize that a system that's based on the assumption that secrets are kept secrets is much more fragile than one that's not, as secrets are becoming increasingly more difficult to keep? Do you not realize how much value and opportunities we miss now that people were tricked into believing that privacy is necessary? Bitcoin, Google Glass, geo-tracking anything, health record analysis, etc.

I don't want to hide anymore. I don't want to compete with liers, or be tricked by them. I don't want to password-protect all the things. I don't want to browse behind 7 proxies. I don't want to be explicit about everything that could be implicitly inferred through tracking. I don't want to keep secrets anymore.

Fortunately, I soon won't have to. Transparency will thrive, and privacy will die. My only worry is, how far and deep will people like you go into making society rely on and expect privacy. The deeper you go, the more brutal the transition will be the day the choice is no longer yours.

I'm not entirely averse to the world you describe, and you may be right that it's in our future no matter what we choose today. But...

Citizens of oppressive governments are in very real danger if they have no privacy. When the secret police are listening in to everything you say and ready to whisk you away at whim, there can be no dissent nor hope of reform.

Gay children of highly conservative parents are in very real danger if they have no privacy. Suicide rates in that and similar demographics are disturbingly high, and today many get through simply by hiding their identity until they're out on their own. That's not an option in your world.

Anyone with minority views on contentious issues relative to their neighbors or co-workers is at risk if they have no privacy. Sometimes the most effective solution when you've got to get along with other people is just to stay silent. (I live in a small, rural town, but my values are closer to those of my friends in places like San Francisco. A whole lot of people here would be suspicious or hostile if they knew how much our worldviews differ.)

I could go on. But in general, the people who most need privacy are the ones who are most different from the people around them. It's much easier to set privacy aside when you're surrounded by people who are already happy to accept you for who you are. Maybe there's another stable society to be found with no privacy at all, as you envision, but the road from here to there is steep, and rough, and has dizzying cliffs on either side.

Would you mind terribly posting your current address and social security number by reply to this comment? I'm certain there are many of us who would responsibly use that information to learn more about you, get to know you better, and provide you with a higher quality discourse here on HN as a result of your generous transparency.

> Fortunately, I soon won't have to. Transparency will thrive, and privacy will die.

Privacy doesn't make the world perfect, but neither would transparency.

I hate to accuse anyone of privileged naivety, but if you believe that the elimination of privacy would be a net improvement for the world, then you must also:

  - be in a position of social power, and confident in 
    your ability to remain there, or

  - hold no important opinions that diverge from the 
    orthodoxy or the power structure that upholds it


  - have no knowledge of the history of marginalized
    groups, the reasons for their marginalization, or
    the repercussions thereof, or

  - believe we already live in, or are moving inexorably
    toward, a eutopian global kumbaya where everyone just 
    gets along, because enlightenment
I share your dislike for the effort that goes into maintaining privacy. But I know it's important -- vital, even -- because the world is a complicated place. More so for some than others.

Those in positions of social power thrive on secrecy. It's how they are able to maintain that power. So, yes, maybe transparency will alter the lives of those with immense social power (and perhaps in ways those people would not want), but it will likely allow everyone else to benefit from reduced control by elites.

The real lesson from history seems to be that information is power and secret information even more. Elites (what you describe as those with social power) have used their secrets to repress everyone else for millennia (and likely longer than that).

I'm not going to troll about all that, but even though I agree on the general utopia you're describing, let me quote a good friend of mine (who certainly was quoting someone else):

    It is important to have the right and possibility to be anonymous 
    in a world where that right and possibility is not needed. Because 
    as soon as they are needed, they become vital to be used.
I do want to live in a world where we will have no need for privacy, but I do not want to drop my right for privacy because of how that world works.

This why I call the world you're describing by saying: Transparency will thrive, and privacy will die. My only worry is, how far and deep will people like you go into making society rely on and expect privacy is nothing more than an utopia.

Assuming that transparency will end lies and manipulations is just fanciful.

That said, I don't expect our privacy will last, either. Like you said, efficiency - the current economic fetish - will be used as an excuse to kill it soon enough. For some, that is. Like free markets, transparency will be forced on the poor and avoided by the rich, eliminating most of the potential benefits it could have brought.

Your trust in transparency ultimately boils down to trust in people & I, for one, sure as hell do not trust people, especially people in power.

Own and run a business that competes with an American/British/Canadian/Australian/Kiwi business? You have something to hide.

Got a strong viewpoint about a religion you don't like? You have something to hide.

Like to travel around the world and see new places, do new things? You have something to hide.

People need to understand the use-case for pervasive surveillance is not stopping terrorism. Its controlling civilization ..

most being lucky enough to never have experienced the downsides

In Germany, or just in West Germany? Have people forgotten the Stasi already?

Yes. We are two generations out. The memory is long gone.

As a worthy aside, Kundera described totalitarianism as the process of depriving people of memory to transform them into children.

I often wonder what my generation won't care about in 35 years that the younger population see as outrageous.

My most obvious guess is more rights to non humans, AI/Animals/Environment etc.

Meats seem to be on the chopping block.

What makes you think the youth will be on your side? This generation is growing up with twitter and facebook as facts of life.

Somewhat paradoxically, I don't believe the use of social networks is an indicator that a person doesn't care about privacy. Mostly, they want to communicate with their friends but still keep others out, such as parents and authorities.

I have seen this point being made several times now, that we simply don't deserve privacy or freedom from surveillance because we're using social media. In my opinion, this is wrong. Just because the data is technically available doesn't mean we're implicitly OK with large organizations gathering it all in one place in order to use it against us.

That's not my point at all. Unlike you, I don't presume to predict the behavior of people I don't understand so confidently. I never said that they don't care about privacy. I suspect all humans care. I just expect them to have a different interpretation of it than you do, and I think it's quite arrogant of you to assume that they will naturally agree with you when their backgrounds are so different from yours. Everyone who is convinced in the rightness of their own views believes "time is on my side", but at least one side is always wrong to do so.

> That's not my point at all.

It feels really weird to tell you this, but I do believe that was indeed your point. The original statement was

"Those who care about civil rights and an active democracy are young"

to which you replied

"What makes you think the youth will be on your side? This generation is growing up with twitter and facebook as facts of life."

to which I replied

"I don't believe the use of social networks is an indicator that a person doesn't care about privacy."

to which you replied with a stream of insults. I admit I do have trouble seeing where you're coming from. If I misunderstood you in any way, I apologize.

To simplify a bit, I wasn't claiming the next generation would oppose you. I was disputing your claim that they would support you. I think it's far more likely that they will come to some new conclusion that none of us old fogeys will understand, much less accept.

> I wasn't claiming the next generation would oppose you. I was disputing your claim that they would support you.

Oppose or support me in what, exactly? And why is this somehow about me personally? I merely asserted that young people do care about privacy. I'm getting the feeling that you might be conflating what I said with what hengheng wrote.

> I think it's far more likely that they will come to some new conclusion that none of us old fogeys will understand

That's a valid point. However from observation, I would say "people who use $social_network obviously don't care about rights or privacy" is actually the old-fogey position. Teens sending each other stuff on Snapchat, for example, are most likely not OK with their streams being inspected from the outside. In fact, I do believe they even care which one of their friends gets what message.

The French have a lot to worry about, because their country is a serious pain in the ass to a lot of people in the world.

What the French have done to Africa, and what they continue to do to Africa - which should be one of the richest continents on Earth, in terms of world economy - is definitely something that has to be hidden from the French public, or else they wouldn't stand one minute more of their ruling elite lying to them.

Former French colonies are, as of today, being heavily repressed by France. This fact needs to continue to be hidden, lest the world wake up to the repression and demand that the French people do something effective about it. Until then, terrorism is to be expected. You can't rule as an imperial power and not expect blowback; people want to be free to live their lives un-repressed.

EDIT: Read this, and then re-consider your downvote: http://thisisafrica.me/france-loots-former-colonies/

Fact is, the Western nations have a lot of responsibility for imperial machinations in the world, and while the French people - as well as those of us in other Western nations - may not have anything to hide, we certainly have a LOT that must be revealed to us in order to understand just why people are willing to give their lives to disrupt Western imperialism. Its not all religion; mostly, its economic and human rights violations on the part of the Western powers, which motivates such heinous response.

That "thisisafrica" article has been posted to HN at least twice recently, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8876429

- and as the previous comment chain says, it looks very bogus.

"Looking bogus" is not the same as being bogus.


I would personally be quite content to see more evidence presented in the public sphere and world court. When/if it happens, let us pick up the thread ..

The previous chain


explains in quite a lot of detail how it walks like bogus and talks like bogus. It makes extraordinary claims which cannot be backed up, and which are conflicting with realistic assessment of what is possible (for instance, that France would be ripping off an amount of money that equals to its annual state budget, without that money showing up anywhere.)

Nothing in that thread is anything but opinion.

As for the money not showing up anywhere, its quite clear that the French secret services are involved in covering up the transactions - this is one of their key tasks, after all.

Are you an American posting this by any chance?

What has that got to do with anything? Nope.

Translation of the first point, to best of my ability (If interested in more, please ask):

I have nothing to hide. In fact yes, and so do you.


--> May I ask for your computer, e-mail and Facebook password? Promise, I won't do anything bad, only read.

How would you dare to answer no? If you have nothing to hide, you cannot make the distinction in what you disclose publicly, and what may bother you a little bit more. As soon as you impose a barrier, you have something to hide (and that's normal!).

The rest of us, human beings, are distinguished between each other because we all have a private life, an intimacy that we do not reveal to all. -----

That's a silly question that calls into question your understanding of computer systems. When we say we have nothing to hide, we're not talking about passwords. Someone knowing your password can impersonate you. That's a very different risk from them knowing information about you.

If all you want to do is read the information I make public, send a friend request like a normal person.

Did you miss the memo where the repressive security agencies of the world have given themselves the right to impersonate you online?

Yeah, probably. I thought that was all security agencies. Isn't the whole idea of spies that they assume false identities to try to gather information they wouldn't legitimately have access to?

You want them doing that at the packet layer?

I'm sure they will do it at whatever layer they need to in order to create a convincing persona, regardless of what any of us want.

So you have nothing to hide except for things that could put you at risk if publicly disclosed. I think that disclosing any information could put a person at risk in some way or another. So I'll hide everything until I decide it's necessary not to.

How do you reconcile that with the fact that you have an account here with a history of comments?

Easy. I wanted to communicate, so I decided to let that information out.

Oh, please. He had a valid point and you made a personal attack. A precise definition of what should be public and what is private would be a valuable contribution to the conversation, insults are not.

That's a completely inaccurate description of my reply. But I suppose you'll consider that remark a personal attack too?

If suddenly there was a regime that was going to exterminate all French people you might change your tune.

You have no idea what the world will be like 10 years from now.

The French nationals that dutifully filled out their 1930s census form had nothing to hide, until IBM rolled into town and started doing 1940s Big Data on it, then lots of people wanted to hide.

That's the exact point of the article...

Perhaps the misunderstanding is due to many of us not understanding French...

Je ne comprend pas francais

I generaly agree with those slides, yet something bother me in one of the video :

One of the slide gives a false feeling of equality between two quotes, one by Brice hortefeux and one by Eric schmidt on privacy.

The first one is about surveillance cameras put in public streets by an elected representative of the people (a mayor).

The other is about scanning private conversations by a private company who only deals with shareholders.

I don't think calling everything "a society of surveillance" helps to finely tune the measures that we'll have to put in place to improve security in a not too radical way.

He later makes the point that even measures taken by governments could be completely misused by fascists regime, which is true. But then the problem is maintaining a democratic power, and a fair legal system.

And that problem existed with disastrous consequences far before the internet was created.

> One of the slide gives a false feeling of equality between two quotes, one by Brice hortefeux and one by Eric schmidt on privacy. > The first one is about surveillance cameras put in public streets by an elected representative of the people (a mayor). > The other is about scanning private conversations by a private company who only deals with shareholders.

Don't people choose to trust Google with their data, in the same way they delegate their power to the mayor?

> He later makes the point that even measures taken by governments could be completely misused by fascists regime, which is true. But then the problem is maintaining a democratic power, and a fair legal system.

What are you getting at with that?

The fact is, large amounts of processing power, an incredible amount of data collected (in a way that would not have been possible in a pre-Internet era), and little accountability by design are an extremely dangerous combination. You do not even need to go back to the Vichy era for that. Both Hoover and the Gaullist SAC people would have been delighted to have such information at their disposal...

"what are you getting at with that ?"

Well, that if a country becomes non democratic to the point where surveillance cameras or email snooping becomes a problem, then there would probably be a lot of bigger problems to deal with in the first place (such as people with gun in the street that can arrest you physically for no reason).

The problem is that the French people don't see their existing government for the fascist, imperialist organization that it currently IS. If you don't think so, just ask a Cameroon'ian businessman who is trying to get a loan what he thinks about French imperialism. Better ask him before he tells you first, Monsieur!

I'm usualy really into criticizing french bureaucracy but i must admit i have absolutely no idea what you're talking about... Could you give more details ?

The third paragraph "Pourquoi est-ce plus compliqué que ce que l'on pense ?" ("Why is it more complicated than what you think?") refers to retroactivity of the law [1], claiming that you might have troubles later for doing things that are not illegal now but might become illegal in the future, which means it's safer to just hide what you are doing now. However AFAIK retroactive laws are forbidden by Human Rights (and by the United States Constitution, notably) except for very specific cases, so this whole paragraph is a giant strawman.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto_law

That makes the risky assumption that every future government will consider itself bound by the ban on ex post facto laws.

Sigh. Another argument based on (1) missing the context under which many people say that phrase, which is "nothing to hide" from law enforcement, and on (2) images of a future totalitarian system, which regardless of how likely it actually is, it's not considered so by most people.

In my case, they're preaching to the choir, but if I was actually one of the people they were trying to convince, it'd fail completely.

Not having something to hide forces you to divulge everything because you have nothing to hide. Except that thing that is nobody's business.

This mentality fires back quickly and is usually a trait of someone who haven't thought it through yet.

Everyone who disagrees with you simply hasn't thought things through? What a compelling argument.

It is a FUD. Thesis : you may think you have nothing to hide, but because of sociogramms and retroactive laws you do. Because everybody is related to everybody, you are being watched. Thus don't move, don't speak, just hide.

A page like this should show naked man and woman (not too attractive), with all their pubic hair and genitals exposed.

Most people think they have their body to hide. Showing them that it isn't so might make a difference.

Clothes have protective and insulative properties. Their purpose is not always solely to hide physical appearance.

If you ask a stranger in a warm room to fully undress, their main objection will typically be privacy/shame concerns. (At least that's how I'd react, and most people I know).

If the room is full of other naked people, that person will feel weird if they don't undress. (At least that's how I'd react, and most people I know).

Bathing suits don't, but they're still widely worn.

Bathing suits don't have protective or insulative properties? What?

Personally, I've tried nudist bathing, and I much prefer having a layer of protection between my crotch and rocks, sharp shells, and the sun.

You're missing the forest. The point is that people choose to cover certain parts of themselves, even if they are just laying on a towel sunbathing.

Do you really want some of the most sensitive parts of your body directly (minus some atmospheric particles) exposed to the sun's harsh photons?

> You're missing the forest.

Maybe. I can't read the French language, so I don't know what the article claims.

However, unless the article is making some absurd metaphor, the points above stand.

Less so in France!

Manual english translation (draft):


please improve it, and why not make an igotnothingtohide website ;-)

as I already own the domain, I have put together:


which redirects to the pad. Once we got a nice and readable translation, I'll put a nicer page over there. Don't hesitate to ping me on twitter @guyzmo, or IRC (freenode, zmo).

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact