I have heard this often of late. And it seems a reasonable point. If you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything to worry about. They are only interesting in finding and stopping terrorists and child pornographers. That is a good thing, right? What sensible person wouldn't sacrifice a little privacy for that? A few crazy extremists clinging to their guns, perhaps.
Personally, I don't really have a big problem with cameras everywhere, watching me. Given the number of cellphones with cameras, I have no doubt there is some embarrassing footage out there of me picking my nose, scratching my butt...
To me the problem is that I don't know exactly what they are gathering, how they are using it, or who else they have let see it.
But why does that matter? Again, I have nothing to hide, so nothing to worry about, right?
Let me introduce you to the idea of advanced media manipulation. Did you know that the marketing/advertising industry has poured millions into researching how different things like color influence you? Why? Mind Control, that's why. By applying the right colors, sounds, smells, social cues, they can manipulate you into buying a product you might otherwise pass by.
What does that have to do with spying? The more they know about you, individually, the more specifically they can tailor the message. At the most fundamental non-sinister level, they know what you are looking for, and can send you targeted advertising. But what if they branch into more sensitive areas of your life? Like Health issues?
And as technology advances, the amount and granularity of data they capture increases. You've seen the cool new Samsung Galaxy S4? The one that pauses your movie when you look away from the screen. Did you know that Market research firms are using that technology as well? To better understand what catches your attention?
But what does this have to do with the NSA? They aren't trying to sell deodorant, or toothpaste.
The government deals in Ideas. They are very interested in "Selling" certain ideas, and they are happy to use marketing manipulation techniques to do so. They have. And they are VERY interested in Control. The purpose of a government is to Govern. "Of by and for the people", is only necessary when the people will it.
So, why should I care about secretive organizations data gathering activities? I don't have anything to hide. Do they?