Nothing to hide? It’s still your private information

Awhile back, a controversy erupted over the Patriot Act.

Section 215 allows the government the right, under fairly broad circumstances, to check with local libraries and find out what you’re reading.

Librarians and First Amendment advocates lamented that the section was an invasion of reader privacy, a violation of citizens’ rights to read whatever they wanted without having the government call them to task over what they read, or having that information used against them as if it were a crime.

Some folks said, “What’s the big deal? If you have nothing to hide, why would you care?”

It’s a point I hear made often when officials want access to people’s private information. Yet now, we see again why this kind of thing is a big deal.

Truckers rarely have anything to hide. Yet innocent information, details about normal day-to-day activities, things no one would ever think of hiding, have been used by two states to put truckers out of service.

When I spoke to experts about the Fatigued Driving Evaluation Checklist being used in Minnesota and Indiana, they called the checklist arbitrary, unsupported by medical facts, a violation of basic science – and a violation of basic civil liberties. 

OOIDA member Steve House had nothing to hide. He’s a law-abiding citizen who answered a few innocent-sounding questions from a law-enforcement officer – questions about reading material, TVs in sleepers, his neck size, his health, the cleanliness of his cab, and so on.

He thought – and was told – his answers would never lead to trouble. Not one of them indicated a violation of any law.

But they did lead to trouble – an out-of-service order and a threat of fines and jail time if he violated it.

Our founding fathers guaranteed our freedom to read and speak, and protected our privacy for a reason.

They believed that when government pokes and prods into our private information, it inevitably leads to abuse of power. We’ve seen that fear proved right again and again.

No one should have to endure an abuse of government power. And that’s why the use of this checklist needs to stop. LL