Why privacy matters — Yes, even if you have nothing to hide

Published on Jan 20, 2020

My friends know me as someone who is somewhat of a privacy nerd. Whenever they can, they'll tease me about my views on privacy and will tell me that when you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. I disagree. 

Earlier this week my friends asked me what I thought about the Belgian government wanting to put our fingerprints on our national passports. They don't see a problem with that because they have nothing to hide or so they claim. If the fingerprints help catch a couple of criminals, that must a good thing, right? 

I don't know how far people are willing to go but why not put a GPS-tracker inside our bodies when we are born. These trackers might help to find a couple of criminals as well? If you have nothing to hide, I'm sure you don't mind sharing your location 24/7. If you use a smartphone, you're probably doing so anyway already.

Would you share your fingerprints with anyone online?

If the answer is no, then you have something to hide and you care about your privacy. Earlier this year, 23 gigabytes of data including fingerprint and facial recognition data was leaked online. The data came from a web-based biometric security platform called BioStart 2, an app that is produced by Suprema, a multinational specialized in security solutions. I'm not convinced that any other company implementing the fingerprints on our passports will do a perfect job.

Once information like your unique fingerprints get leaked, there's no way to get it back. We're still unsure how criminals might use that data in the future, but you don't have to be a genius to realize that identify theft might be one of those things. Worse, your prints may even be placed in a crime scene you never even visited.

I build software for a living and can say that no system is 100% secure. When politicians say that the fingerprints on the passports will be stored in a way that's 100% secure and trustworthy, that's simply a claim you cannot make and it will just take time before someone proves them wrong.

Some will say that we're already using fingerprints to unlock our smartphones and they are right. Why trust Apple, Samsung or Huawei with your fingerprints then? The big difference is that the decision to do so is opt-in and not forced upon you.

We can't predict the future

We don't know what the future will bring and who will get a hold of your data and what they will do with it. Luckily for us here in Belgium dicators aren't using your data and let's hope that won't change in the future. 

Until then, keep sharing what you are comfortable with and be mindful others who feel less included to do so.

You are not and will not be judged by your own standards. Standards differ between people and organizations, and standards shift with time. Even if your behavior is deemed acceptable today, it can be held against you tomorrow. - https://whyprivacymatters.org/

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