Bruce Schneier posts about a Houston proposal to put surveillance cameras all over - even in private homes.

"I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?" Chief Harold Hurtt told reporters Wednesday at a regular briefing.

Bruce suggests that the privacy community doesn't have a good answer for that. I disagree, though. I think the question frames the issue incorrectly.

As many have suggested in the Bruce's comments, the problem is that we can't always trust the authorities - but it's more than theoretical.  The Fourth Amendment was largely a response to Writs of Assistance, which James Otis described as "the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law." These general warrants, he said,  are "a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer."

The presumption of innocence and the Fourth Amendment's Probable Cause standard shift the burden to the government. This shift is an important constraint of this arbitrary power and is more practical - after all, it is easier to prove guilt than to prove innocence. Conversely, it should come as no surprise that a presumption of guilt is the cornerstone of many dictatorial regimes.

So my answer is quite simple: Privacy in the home is a fundamental right, and thus I don't have to justify why I need it. Rather, they must justify taking it away.


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