Nothing To Hide 

The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security

Daniel J. Solove
(Yale University Press 2011)

“If you’ve got nothing to hide,” many people say, “you shouldn’t worry about government surveillance.” Others argue that we must sacrifice privacy for security. But as Daniel J. Solove argues in this book, these arguments and many others are flawed. They are based on mistaken views about what it means to protect privacy and the costs and benefits of doing so.

In addition to attacking the “Nothing-to Hide Argument,” Solove exposes the fallacies of pro-security arguments that have often been used to justify government surveillance and data mining. These arguments – such as the “Luddite Argument,”the “War-Powers Argument,” the “All-or-Nothing Argument,” the “Suspicionless-Searches Argument,” the “Deference Argument,” and the “Pendulum Argument” – have skewed law and policy to favor security at the expense of privacy.

The debate between privacy and security has been framed incorrectly as a zero-sum game in which we are forced to choose between one value and the other. But protecting privacy isn’t fatal to security measures; it merely involves adequate oversight and regulation.

The primary focus of the book is on common pro-security arguments, but Solove also discusses concrete issues of law and technology, such as the Fourth Amendment Third Party Doctrine, the First Amendment, electronic surveillance statutes, the USA-Patriot Act, the NSA surveillance program, and government data mining.

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Praise For The Book

“Daniel Solove takes on the two biggest challenges to privacy in the twenty-first century:  the rapid development of technology that gives the government the ability to track our decisions, choices, discussions, and movements in real time; and the threat of catastrophic terrorist attacks, which demand increased security measures.  In clear, measured prose, Solove shows how the law of privacy has failed us in addressing these twin challenges, and proposes an innovative way forward.”

—David Cole, Georgetown University Law School

“The Information Age has turned our notions of privacy upside down.  Solove is our smartest thinker on what privacy means today, and “Nothing to Hide” definitely refutes old ideas about privacy and replaces them with ones that work in the world of data brokers, Facebook, and Wikileaks.  The debate will never be the same after this book.”

—Bruce Schneier, author of Beyond Fear

“Daniel Solove is one of America’s leading experts on privacy law. In this engaging book, he explains why privacy is everyone’s concern; it is a crucial social value that must be integrated into our national security policy rather than simply balanced against it.”

—Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School

“Bravo Daniel Solove! In Nothing to Hide he skillfully dispels many of the myths associated with the faulty zero-sum tradeoff between privacy vs. security. In exposing the flawed logic of having to forego one interest in order to secure another, Daniel Solove has done us all a great service.”

—Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Canada

Nothing to Hide “provides a thought-provoking, accessible introduction to privacy and security law. . . . [T]he book is peppered with literary, historical, and legal references and examples.”


“[A] book like privacy scholar Daniel Solove’s “Nothing to Hide” is sorely needed. In language aimed squarely at a general audience, Solove, a renowned legal theorist, catalogs — and punctures — the litany of bad arguments that have persuaded so many Americans to abandon privacy in the name of greater security.”

Julian Sanchez, The Daily

“What’s particularly refreshing in Solove’s work is his ability to encapsulate the “big picture” in surveillance law. . . . Solove gives us a richer concept of privacy, as a right to self-determination, dignity, due process, and a fair hearing in an increasingly automated and alienating world. . . .Nothing to Hide is a consistently fascinating effort to assure that the modern surveillance state respects the citizens it claims to protect.”

Frank Pasquale, Seton Hall Law School, Concurring Opinions

“Solove makes convincing arguments that we need to refocus the debate and make more effort to protect privacy, Fourth Amendment and First Amendment rights.  This can be done without seriously damaging national security. . . . This is a very timely and thought provoking book.”

Raymond Kessler, Law & Politics Book Review

“In an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand book, Solove concisely reveals the fallacies of many security arguments that justify intrusions into our lives. He also provides cogent examples of how the security-privacy balance can be properly restored. Solove provides a compelling case for swinging the pendulum back toward privacy and civil rights at a time when security threatens to become Orwellian.”

Mayer Nudell, Security Management Magazine

Nothing to Hide “succinctly and persuasively debunks the arguments that have contributed to privacy’s demise, including the canard that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from surveillance. Privacy, he reminds us, is an essential aspect of human existence, and of a healthy liberal democracy—a right that protects the innocent, not just the guilty.”

— David Cole, New York Review of Books

“As Daniel Solove has argued so persuasively in his book Nothing To Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, Americans today devalue their own privacy in all sorts of staggering ways.”

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

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