"I have nothing to hide."

Rob Braxman has produced many videos about how Meta, Apple, and especially Google invade users’ privacy.

He says that “I have nothing to hide.” is a popular response to those new to the topic of Internet privacy.

Here are some of my IF/THEN/ELSE questions for those who respond in this way:

  • Will you leave your cellphone, tablet, or computer unlocked when it is not near you?
    • If NO, then I believe that the respondent believes that he or she has nothing to hide, although this belief likely does not match the truth.
    • If YES, then I ask, “Would you ever lend your cellphone to someone (for example, to make a call)?”
      • If NO, then I ask, “Why not?”
      • If YES, then I ask, “Would you hover over that person?”
        • If YES, then I ask, “Why?”
        • If NO, then…
          • I believe that the respondent believes that there is nothing privacy-invading on the cellphone, although this belief may not match the truth.
          • I ask, “Would you let that person leave your line of sight, such that you cannot see what he or she is doing with your cellphone?”
            • If NO, then I ask, “Why not?”
            • If YES, then…
              • For any kind of cellphone, I ask, “Do you regularly delete call history and all text messages? If so, why?”
              • For a smartphone, tablet, or computer, I ask:
                • “Do you regularly clear your browser’s history, cookies, and cache? If so, why?”
                • “Do you regularly clear your email client’s inbox and “sent” folder and empty its “trash” folder? If so, why?”
              • For a smartphone or tablet with a social-media app installed, I ask, “Does your social-media app have distinctive access control (for example, through a PIN or facial recognition)? If so, why?”

I am certain that this list is imperfect! What do YOU say, if anything, to friends or relatives who tell you that they have nothing to hide on their cellphones, tablets, and computers?


Thanks for this post! And what a Socratic way to educate about privacy.
I believe many people consider something to hide to be a negative, shady thing.
Meanwhile, something to hide may very well be my favourite kind of sandwich that I don’t want digital marketers and algorithms to know about and weaponise against me in the battle for my attention, time and money.


@kirkmahoneyphd If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone tell me “…BUT I have nothing to hide,” when discussing the importance of privacy & security on the net, I think I could retire now. This is the #1 reason people give as an excuse for being lax with their data, however it can definitely overlook the range of risks and concerns associated with poor data security and privacy practices.


Your post reminded me of a theater performance I attended some time ago. I’m not sure which came first - the film or the play, but I highly recommend it:



I saw the French version when I had Netflix. You gave a great example.